More than a musical, less than gig-theatre, Just For One Day is a blast in more ways than one.

The story behind Live Aid is a familiar one. Bob Geldof, outraged at BBC reports of the 1984 Ethiopan famine, works with Midge Ure to gather together many of the greatest musicians of the era plus Sting to create Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas which went straight to number one. The Americans - never a nation that likes to feel outdone in any aspect - followed suit with their own charity single the following year. When the many millions raised failed to make a noticeable impact on the famine, Geldof’s outrage went up to eleven and he (with the help of music promoter Harvey Goldsmith) and created two enormous music concerts in the US and the UK.

Directed by Luke Sheppard and with a book by John O’ Farrell, this has the backing of the Band Aid Charitable Trust who receive 10% of the ticket sales. There’s much to admire here as a huge cast of actor/musicians backed by a rock band sing out thirty-plus numbers from the era. Queen, Bowie, U2 and their ilk are all here at full volume (ear protectors are advised for those with tinnitus or would like to retain some hearing into their old age). Some songs are rolled into the narrative: when Geldof (an fiery and sweary Craige Els) ponders how to best get all world and their drummer on board, the cast sing The Police’s Message In A Bottle while Margaret Thatcher (a fantastic Julie Atherton) tells the audience to just stop sobbing before storming into Elton John’s I’m Still Standing.

Having Thatcher in the mix adds layers and flavour. Geldof spends a good while moaning about the VAT that her government is taking from the sales of the Band Aid record and engineers a meeting with her. While not the strongest subplot in the world, it does lead to an 8 Mile-style rap battle between the two which brings the house down. Sheppard and O’Farrell should seriously consider creating a show with similar musical contests.

Where this production seriously falls down is in the writing department. A storyline between two contemporary teenagers which leads to young love is cringeworthy and detracts from the great work done elsewhere. Some of the lines are prosaic and obvious, others seem to be filler in order to move the plot along.

Just For One Day is more than a bunch of songs. It’s a call to action for the current generation, a shoutout to the masses who want to do something and need motivation.For those with a nostalgic inclination towards the Eighties, this is highly recommended. And for those who lived through this benighted era, it’s a must-see.

Just For One Day continues at the Old Vic until 30 March.

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan