Named "The best disco in the world" by Billboard magazine, the Wigan Casino was the epicentre of the Northern Soul movement between 1973 and 1981, a venue where kids from all over Britain gathered every weekend to dance, swap records and escape from whatever Monday to Friday did to them.
With every year the mythology around the venue grows and Irish director Shimmy Marcus' film 'SoulBoy' is another story to make the faithful wish they were barging through those doors at 12:30am all those years ago.
Joe McCain's (Compston) life in Stoke-on-Trent in 1974 involves a dead end delivery job with Irish driver Brendan (Shortt), a bit of thieving with pal Russ (Allen) and the same weekend down the pub every weekend. Sensing there's more to life, but not sure exactly where, Joe's head is turned by hairdresser Jane (Burley), who he discovers is into soul and spends her weekends at the Wigan Casino.
Desperate to make an impression, Joe goes one weekend, discovers a new world and finds out that a square former schoolmate Dexie (Reece) and his now all-grown-up sister Mandy (Jones) knew about it long before him. And so begins Joe's transformation from Mud fan to soul boy, a journey involving lust, love, fear and facing up to what he wants from life.
While 'SoulBoy' has much in common with the recent 'Cemetery Junction' (star Jones was the love interest there too), it doesn't have the same budget or script polish as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's film and, at just 75 minutes before the end credits roll, it's over all too soon. There are strong performances, excellent period detail and brilliant music - it's just that you needed another half-hour of them.
Compston, who many may remember from 'Sweet Sixteen', is both lovable and annoying as misfit Joe, but the script should have done more with the women in his life while Pat Shortt, great as the lonely Irishman on the receiving end of racial prejudice, deserved a bigger role.
The decision to use classic footage from the real Wigan Casino is inspired, and the interviews at the end with its former regulars are touching. Marcus, whose last film was 2003's 'Headrush' is a fine director, and hopefully he won't leave it another seven years until he's back in cinemas again. 'SoulBoy' is very slight in places, but it has charm, and if it turns a handful of new kids on to the music, well...