Book, Music and Lyrics: Dougal Irvine
Director: Pip Minnithorpe
Choreographer: Cressida Carré
Reviewer: Lauren Rare
Walking into the tiny venue, the recently opened Waterloo East Theatre which is situated in a renovated railway arch-complete with rumbling trains overheard, the small stage was sparsely furnished. Four lonely plastic seats and two bilingual airport signs were the only props.
The show began with a blackout and the sound of an aeroplane taking off. As the lights flashed back on, four loud and crude lads appeared. The opening dialogue and musical number: ‘Brits on Tour’ was brash with sexual jokes and slang ad nauseum; a theme which continued throughout the show.
The music covered a variety of styles; ranging from an attempt at beat boxing hip-hop, some country and western and a bit of Flamenco. The movements during the musical numbers were skilfully choreographed by Cressida Carré, and the timing of the cast was very tight. All the songs were enthusiastically tackled by the cast and accompanied by the enormous orchestra….of two guitars. The guitarists, one of whom was the author of the musical; Dougal Irvine, sat beside the stage resplendent in aviator glasses and pilot’s shirts.
Some of the singing was quite melodic and the voices blended quite well; although there were times when the cast did not quite manage to hit the notes and there were a few awkward vocal gratings. A commendable performance was the moving duet between JB (Chris Fountain) and Ross (Steven Webb), the cleverly composed song ; ‘Do you know what I think of you?’ has them singing an apparently harmonious duet, but closer attention to the words revealed totally crossed purposes. The last song; ‘Left Spain’ was an emotionally charged and fitting finale.
The acting was good, and although the laddish behaviour was slightly jarring at the start of the play, as it developed it became clear that there was more to these ‘boys behaving badly’ than either they, their friends or the audience, had realised. This extra dimension to each character was gradually revealed by the mysterious good time girl; Sophie. Played by Verity Rushworth (probably most well-known for playing Donna Windsor in Emmerdale), Sophie appeared in a series of flashbacks which each added a new piece of information to the unfolding story. Rushworth appeared to be relishing her part and played the tarty girl with panache; even attempting some screeching singing (hopefully ironically!) in a Lily Allen-esque style.
The four teenage boys (Chris Fountain, Jack Shalloo, Liam Tamne and Steven Webb) were all quite believable as lager louts abroad. Pete (Shalloo) with his ginger hair, sunburn and his deeply buried sad past and the leader of the pack; JB with his swaggering confidence and his ‘I’d do me’ T-shirt which masked his own insecurities, particularly stood out with their energetic performances.
I particularly enjoyed the frequent airport information updates in Irish and Spanish accents which gave increasingly ludicrous excuses as to why the aeroplane was delayed. Judging from the laughter this elicited from the audience, this echoed our own experiences of flying with a budget airline!
If you are looking for an evening of high-brow culture that you would feel comfortable taking your Gran to; this is definitely not it. However if you are in the mood for a quick fix (it only lasts 90 minutes!) of something fun with lots of puerile jokes, but with a bit of a twist, this ‘coming of age’ musical may be just the ticket.