FINALLY! A quirky and quintessentially British musical comes to the West End. The synchronicity of this musical focusing on the austerity of post war Britain preparing for a royal wedding could not be more applicable to us today and so this musical is charming and contemporary.
It takes us on an absurd journey in a northern English town and the eccentric characters that live there. It centres around the title character, brought to life through a clever animatronic pig!
Star of the show is without a doubt Sarah Lancashire. Her performance really was stellar, giving her all in each number. She belted out her numbers and has a wonderful voice, giving us 110% all the time. Her show stopping performance of the song Nobody was stunning. Her natural humour and good fun came through and she led the cast superbly.
Reece Shearsmith suitably cast as the chiropodist Gilbert Chivers played this comedic part superbly. His facial expressions and acting captured this quirky character just right and he certainly was the hero of the show even though he’s “simply doing his duty”. This character gives the show it’s heart and Reece played the vulnerable underdog spot on.
Ann Emery as the hilarious character Mother Dear (yes that’s how she’s listed in the programme!) got some of the biggest laughs of the night (and there were MANY laughs), especially the scene where she overhears Joyce and Gilbert talking about killing the pig and thinks they’re talking about her, roars of laughter were heard throughout the theatre.
Adrian Scarborough who recently won an Olivier award for Best Supporting Actor, may well be up for that award again next year following his performance in this as the villain meat inspector. He has one of the most bizarre songs of the show Painting by Heart, but again its absurdity works and it’s a great cast number.
The score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe is what drives this musical though, and they have wonderfully brought Alan Bennett’s story to life through music. It’s corny to say but there really is not a dud song in this show. Each is perfectly scored and the lyrics are literally laugh out loud funny. It’s so refreshing to hear an innovative and original score in the West End nowadays, this is a breath of fresh air! The highlights for me were Lionheart, and the Finale Ultimo – Confessions.
The orchestra was perfect and it was great to see them be given the stage for The Primrose Ballroom scene and finale. Tim Hatley’s design is imaginatively creative, recreating a familiar northern town feel to the whole show, and the use of film footage from 1947 adds to its charm. Richard Eyre direction provides some clever moments, I especially liked a scene where the characters were acting in “slow motion”, a very clever piece of theatrics.
So as you can see I didn’t just like this, I LOVED it, the audience leaving the theatre were chuckling and beaming at the good time we’d spent in the company of this vibrant cast and pig! If you fancy a musical like no other, that’s original, quirky, and fabulous fun, make your way to the Novello, this deserves to be this years hit, I sincerely hope it is!