Writer: Kate Bramley
Songs and Music: Jez Lowe
Director: Kate Bramley
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
The Public Reviews Rating:
The meteoric rise of a chipper milkman from a small Yorkshire village to the giddy heights of topping the bill as a pop star at the London Palladium is chronicled with wit and invention in this charming production. Along the way, all of the usual clichés of such a rags-to-riches tale are firmly adhered to – but as this is a comedy sprinkled with satire, they are all delivered with a knowing wink to the audience who remain very much in on the joke.
Set in 1963 during the pop revolution, the story is able to nicely contrast the difference between the fictional sleepy village of Bottledale and the dazzling lights of London’s swinging ‘60s with the script often being reminiscent of the work of Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood. Meanwhile the songs are catchy and well arranged to give the feeling of the era both in the cheery tunes sung in Bottledale and the knowing pastiches delivered by pop star Eddie (the amusing Bottledale Girls – bearing a resemblance to The Beach Boys’ California Girls – being a highlight).
The cast of three performers show great talent, versatility and stamina in playing all of the roles, particularly as all are also required to sing. Aiden Lee Brooks plays the titular Eddie (Edwin when not in his pop persona) as well as the villain of the piece – Eddie’s nemesis and look-alike, Peter. Showing great comedic abilities both verbally and physically, Brooks also impresses with his singing voice and ably manages to lead the proceedings while believably alternating between our down-to-earth hero and (as the script has it) a complete git. Kaitlin Howard plays Edwin’s girlfriend Marion along with several other contrasting roles and is able to show off her vocals in several standout numbers.
The simple set is very effective. Predominantly a milk float, it is able to transform throughout the story to represent everything from a dairy replete with stable to the stage of the Palladium itself. The costumes are very well designed and completely within the era and the actors manage the numerous quick changes expertly.
The script is littered with amusing pop culture references from the early sixties with everything from the Profumo Affair to Crackerjack getting name checked (I could point out that references to Stingray and Dick Dastardly would be impossible in 1963 – but I won’t) and some icons of sixties pop even have cameos courtesy of the versatile Brooks.
Although using its small scale to its advantage with some excellent and imaginative direction from the writer Kate Bramley, at times the production does also suffer from its limitations. Far from being a criticism, this is more a call for this piece to be expanded into a full-scale musical comedy – something this reviewer believes it richly deserves. And on the strength of this production, Badapple Theatre is certainly worth keeping an eye out for.