To Sue Jenkins (Brookside/Casualty) falls the task of being Marc Bolan’s mum in the new rock musical 20th Century Boy.
The show tells the story of Bolan and his band T Rex, exposing some of the myths and taking the audience on a tearful but joyful journey through Marc’s rich life until his death in a car crash at the age of 29 on September 16 1977.
“What is great about the show is that it is not just a jukebox musical with not a lot of content. What’s good – and very important to me – is that this show has got a real story to tell,” Sue says.
“Marc had a son called Rolan who was only two when Marc died. The story in the show is that Rolan decides to come over from America to try to find out about his roots and about his father. He goes to see his grandmother, Marc’s mother (played by Sue) to find out about the real Marc.”
As Sue says, it’s the kind of show that absolutely couldn’t happen without the backing of the family, in particular Rolan and Marc’s brother Harry. His mum Phyllis has passed away.
“But the lovely thing is that it is telling the real story. There are no punches pulled. It’s warts and all. It’s a great tribute, and it is done with a lot of affection, but he is certainly not wearing a halo all the time!”
What makes it all the more interesting for Sue is that Bolan remained close to his mum. It was to his mum that he ran in times of trouble, even into his 20s: “Marc was one of two brothers, and she loved them both, but Marc was always more needy, and there was a great bond between.”
And as far as the show is concerned, the great music – ending effectively with a rock concert – is what takes it all to the next level.
“Marc just had that je ne sais quoi, that magical thing that you just can’t put your finger on or else it just wouldn’t be magic. As a child, he was always different, and he always wanted to be different. He was a great dreamer, and when you listen to his lyrics, they are so different and so deep. There is a lovely line that the brother says about all the things he talks about, like witches and warlocks and fairies, are all in his head. There is a mythical world in his mind.”
And that mythology has continued beyond his death; in fact, it’s probably increased since his passing, with all the tales of all the ways that he seemed to have foreseen his death.
“He was on the Russell Harty show when he said that he was not going to live beyond a young age. He was very prophetic. He said that he would die in a car. He said that he didn’t want a Cadillac like Elvis. If he was going to die, he would rather die in a mini.”
Which, of course, he did.
But the irony was that he was not driving. He had had too much to drink, and so his girlfriend drove instead.
“We can all say things like that, but it is all quite strange. There are so many instances of him saying things like that that you feel that it was like a premonition that he had, that he somehow knew.”
Featuring the hits Ride A White Swan, Metal Guru, I Love To Boogie, Get It On, Hot Love, 20th Century Boy and many more, the show is at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre from May 6-10.