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Sep 1st

Sunny Afternoon at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 Reviewed by Alison Smith

Sunny Afternoon Poster

The 1960s was a time of counter-culture; the old social order was dying and the young were installing a new order with personal freedom in dress, drugs, sexuality (The Pill!), politics and music. And up there in the music revolution were The Kinks. In 1964 The Kinks released their first hard rock hit, ‘You Really Got Me’ and it climbed to number one in the UK charts.  By the end of the 60s The Kinks had had twelve Top 10 hits. 

The musical Sunny Afternoon, written by Joe Penhall with story, music and lyrics by Ray Davies, follows the stories of The Kinks, working class, North London lads, headed by Ray Davies with his brother Dave, drummer Mick Avory and bassist Peter Quaife. Theirs was not an easy journey – banned by American unions, exploited by middle-class managers, riven by brotherly quarrels – but the group survived, with some changes in the line-up, until 1996.

But it is The Kink’s music, not the journey to fame, which is exceptional. Ray Davies moved away from hard rock and began to write narrative songs, reflecting the London that he knew – Waterloo Sunset – and songs of social observation  - Dead End Street and Where have All the Good Times Gone - and character studies - Dedicated Follower of Fashion and A Well Respected Man. Ray Davies is an outsider, a commentator on society and best when communicating through his music and lyrics. 

In Sunny Afternoon, Ryan O’Donnell plays Ray Davies to perfection; dissimilar to Ray in looks he still manages to convey a feeling of Ray’s shyness and awkwardness, of always being a misplaced person. The role of Dave Davies, ‘Dave the Rave’, the insecure, crazy little brother, is taken by Mark Newnham with a suitable wildness. The band is completed with Andrew Gallo as Mick Avory (mind-blowing drum solo) and Garmon Rhys as Pete Quaife. Throughout the musical the four main actor-musicians play, sing and move with passion.  They are truly a talented quartet. They convey the rebelliousness of the 60s, but also their concern with the material issues of life. The money rich managers, upper class, patronising toffs are typified excellently by Richard Hurst and Tomm Coles. They are also extremely talented singers and actors and add a constant stream of humour. Mention must also be made of Lisa Wright as Rasa, Ray’s wife; a beautiful actor with an enchanting voice. 

The production is delightful and joyful; from the screaming fans to the banks of speakers, from the kinky fashion to the dancing style, the 60s are perfectly captured. There was no down moment in the musical; the audience’s attention was held from beginning to end, and what a rousing  end with the whole theatre on its feet moving to the music.

A really wonderful experience; Sunny Afternoon should not be missed. 

 

Sunny Afternoon is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd September.

 www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies.

 

 

 

Jul 26th

After Miss Julie - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 18th July 2016

After Miss Julie - image Nobby Clark

The three characters in After Miss Julie represent, to some degree, the unmoveable class positions, not only in 1945, but also in 2016. There is Julie, the rich girl, who takes advantage of her position, John, the angry young man, who sees no future for himself in a class bound society and Christine accepting of a system which enables her to create a decent enough life for herself.  After Miss Julie is an ‘unfaithful’ reworking of Strindberg’s Miss Julie, written in 1888. Strindberg’s Miss Julie was set in the estate of a Swedish Count while Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie (1995) is set in the country house of a left-wing peer in 1945, a time of social upheaval.

Julie, the daughter of the house, is attracted to John the butler- cum- chauffeur. Julie, newly free after breaking up with her army officer fiancé, is a vulnerable, needy, sensual woman. But she plays the rich girl card of power over the servants, while looking for happiness among them. Helen George, who plays Julie, is an insufferable, brittle character, at times desperate and menacing, at times restrained and arrogant. I was not totally convinced by Helen George’s Julie because, although beautiful and glamorous, she lacks intensity and passion. Her ex-soldier conquest John, (Richard Flood) is more believable, calculating, money grabbing and misogynous he no more cares for Julie than he does for Christine. Christine (Amy Cudden) is the voice of common sense. Her attitude highlights the dangerous game being played by Julie and John. Fully aware of John’s infidelity, she accepts the situation and makes the best of it as she will do in any future life with John. When John realises that his future is not with Julie because there is no money to fund their new life in New York, he quickly loses interest.   For me the relationship between Julie and John lacks substance and zing. It is because of this that I was not convinced of the cliff hanging ending. However, the play is engrossing and I did not lose interest in the blossoming relationship, in the change of roles of the protagonists and in the class struggle that they represent.

After Miss Julie is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 23rd July  

www.atgtickets.com 

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

 

 

Jul 25th

Rocky Horror Show - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 25th July 2016

Poster Rocky Horror Tour

Well, The Rocky Horror Show is a ‘mind flip’ to beat all mind flips, and the MK Theatre audience certainly flipped tonight!  Many in the audience were sexily clad in stilettoes and suspenders, boas and basques to rival the on-stage guests at Frank N Furter’s party; the audience even had the dance moves and kept The Narrator (Norman Pace) on his toes with their heckling (dealt with by Pace with skilful aplomb and topical repartee, although at times looking slightly embarrassed).

In 1973, Richard O’Brian’s Rocky Horror Show challenged audiences with its portrayal of sexual fluidity; now over 40 years later transgender issues have become mainstream and this spectacular musical entertains more than shocks.  And it entertains impressively because of its enduring mixture of Sci-Fi, horror and rock and roll. The show is visually stunning - a great set, atmospheric lighting, spectacular choreography, weird and wonderful costumes; it is raunchy and surreal, but mostly just hilarious.

The plot itself is weak. Brad (Richard Meek) and his fiancée Janet (Diana Vickers), clean college kids, seek help at the mansion of Frank N Furter, a crazy, cross-dressing scientist. That evening he is hosting a party to unveil his new creation, gold booted, skimpily dressed, Rocky Horror (Dominic Anderson), a man to surpass all men, if only physically. And into Frank’s alternative sexual world come the naïve, geeky pair, who are both quickly seduced by Frank and enticed into his alien, ghoul filled universe, rather like a pantomime for consenting adults.

Frank is portrayed convincingly by Liam Tamne. Tamne is  wonderful as Frank. He has a powerful voice with a great range, sharp comic timing, and his movements and gestures are outrageously camp but throughout the musical he also manages to maintain an undercurrent of malevolence. His entourage are also exceptional, Riff Raff, the swaggering servant (Kristian Lavercombe) and Columbia (Sophie Linder-Lee) are both weird and wonderful.  All the cast throw themselves into their roles with enthusiasm and energy and convey the idea that to be different from mainstream society is perfectly acceptable.

This musical, produced by Christopher Luscombe, is a real theatrical experience.  Long may it continue to entertain. 

 The Rocky Horror Show is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 30th July

 

www.atgtickets.com 

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

Jul 11th

Present Laughter - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 11th July 2016

Present Laughter

Laughter is what is needed in Britain at the moment and this light, frothy comedy, Present Laughter by Noel Coward, written in 1939, still induces mirth in 2016. The play makes fun of British society in the 1930s and, semi-autobiographically, of Coward himself, the ageing actor who feels that the world is passing him by, that all the fun is being had elsewhere. Coward himself played the role of Garry Essendine many times, but it is Samuel West who now has that part and steps into Coward’s shoes most successfully. His timing is ‘spot-on’ and his delivery of the sarcastic barbs, ‘ripping’. 

For this is High Society England between the wars; the actor, Essendine, lives in an elegant town house complete with butler and maid. He wears a variety of flamboyant silk dressing gowns, drinks preprandial sherry in the morning and is hounded by beautiful women. Essendine’s every appearance on stage is an entrance, and every conversation is an extravagance. In the first act he dismisses the previous night’s lover, Daphne, with curt tenderness and is ready to face the problems of a fading, egotistic celebrity – the fan mail, the ardent young playwright, the ex-wife, the affairs of his entourage. The problems Essendine has to deal with are not world-shattering, the aspiring actress (who turns out to be Daphne), his manager who is reputed to be having an affair with his producer’s wife (Joanna), but Joanna in fact lusts after Essendine and so on and so forth. Ultimately, the ex-wife, Liz, and ex-husband, Garry, reunite. All these issues are dealt with comically, even farcically, but with superb style. West is able to slip naturally from the role of caring boss to irritated ex-husband, and it is because of this ability to change personality that one begins to wonder if there is in fact a Garry Essendine, or if his whole life is just a performance. 

The matinee idol is attended by a selection of excellent co-stars. Phyllis Logan excels in the part of Monica, his drab, unflappable secretary. Rebecca Johnson has the role of the down-to-earth ex-wife, who is not only self-aware but clearly aware of Garry’s pandering entourage, and Patrick Walshe McBride is outstanding as the gauche, fixated writer. Simon Higlett’s set design is appropriate, the costumes exemplary, the lighting first-class. 

The play is just triviality, frivolity and fun, but it is a well-performed, well-executed production. It made me laugh, and I was grateful for the opportunity.

Present Laughter is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 16th July. 

www.atgtickets.com 

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

Jul 5th

THRILLER LIVE - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 4th July 2016

Thriller LIVE poster

A BRILLIANT show with a very young, extremely talented, and supremely professional cast.  

I was dubious. I’m not a great Michael Jackson fan and I’m not a fan of the ‘jukebox musicals’ that have filled theatres of late, many of which are variable in quality to say the least. I guess I felt Jackson’s image and credibility had gradually been eroded by the bizarre and damaging tales of his behaviour that seemed to dominate his latter years and as a result he had lost a large part of his integrity. For me, this perhaps leached into the ability to appreciathis music. However, once in the theatre and bombarded (in a good way) with the noise, light show and brilliance of performers and band it is difficult not to put aside any negative thoughts. 
When experiencing the broad scope of his work (and there are an incredible 30 songs in this show), as interpreted by Adrian Grant (Executive Producer) who worked closely with Jackson for many years, the realisation of what a ground breaking and influential artist he was, and still is, hits home. His music is such a part of the fabric of a number of generations as demonstrated by a very diverse and very appreciative audience. The combination of the enthusiasm from the stage and that of the audience was intoxicating!
There is a 'concert' feel to the show, a true sense of celebration and tribute and thankfully not an attempt to present any of Jackson’s personal life or to look too deeply behind the musicThere are a couple of moments of narrative to highlight Jackson's achievements but in essence it is a presentation of some iconic moments of music history.   
The leads are superb - on-stage almost constantly, maintaining the same level of high energy throughout and never missing a beat. This is a group who clearly live and breathe their roles, gel together wonderfully on stage and deserve the highest accolades. Ione Townsend, Tyrone Lee, Shaquille Hemmans, Adam J Bernard and Sean Christopher are all outstanding and hugely talented. Indeed, no praise is high enough for their performances last night. They are supported by a fabulous live band consisting of Rob Minns, Allan Salmon, Jo Phillpotts, Davide Giovanni, and Tom Arnold, directed by Mike Lindup. This outstanding group underpin the show and further elevate itbrilliance with their terrific ability to play any genre of Jackson’s music – soul, funk , pop, rock, disco. Add in an incredible ensemble of dancers supporting the leads with the same level of high energy, and filling the stage with colour and vibrancy (as well managing numerous, speedy costume changes) and this is a troupe who truly deliver the audience's expectations and more.  
Set and lighting design is stadium-show like – scaffolding creates levels so that oftentimes there is a ‘wall’ of performers – pyrotechnics on occasion, glitzy, huge screen projections and bright, dazzling lighting. The audience are lit for their participation which happens in the middle of the first half and again extensively at the end of the second. This is what the audience is here for and it is the ‘truer’ renditions of numbers like Billie Jean, Thriller and Smooth Criminal where Sean Christopher’s uncanny likeness to Jackson and his moves gets the audience near hysterical! 
 
A true crowd pleaser and DEFINITELY WORTH A TICKET! 

 

THRILLER LIVE is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 9th July

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) online booking. www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)

 

 

Jun 28th

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

28th June 2016

Joseph poster atg

Joseph, with music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, was first performed professionally in 1972 in Edinburgh by the Young Vic Theatre Company. After 46 years it is still a feel-good musical, the epitome of the narrative of good over evil. The musical, based on the story of ‘the coat of many colours’ from the Book of Genesis, features Joseph, complete with gaudy coat and the gift of interpreting dreams and telling the future. We follow the young man’s adventures – his brothers’ jealousy, his slavery, his life in Potiphar’s household, his imprisonment and eventually his rise to fame and fortune as the Pharaoh’s right-hand-man.
Joseph prevents starvation in Egypt and in so doing becomes the country’s most powerful man. When his brothers come in search of food it is Joseph who deals with them; this leads to his being reunited with his father. Thankfully we are led through the complications of the story by The Narrator (Lucy Kay). This role demands a constant presence on stage as well as great vocal talent. Lucy Kay fulfils this role admirably. Through song she tells the story while introducing a whole range of musical styles including pop, jazz, rock and roll, and Charleston. All add to the feel good factor especially with the lyrics of such catchy numbers as Go, Go, Go Joseph, One More Angel in Heaven and Any Dream Will Do. Especially bizarre were Those Canaan Days, complete with Breton T-shirts, an onion seller and the Eiffel Tower, and Benjamin Calypso with frou frou costumes and tango-like dancing. 
Heading the production is Joe McElderry as Joseph. Joe sings energetically and convincingly. He throws himself unreservedly into the part and the success of the show rests firmly on his shoulders. He is supported by Emilianos Stamatakis as Pharaoh (this Pharaoh has more than a touch of Elvis about him, complete with hip swivelling) as well as his eleven brothers (who also play other roles); they add zest and comedy to the musical with great confidence in all the singing styles. In fact under the direction of Bill Kenwright the whole cast shine, the dancing is choreographed dynamically and the production handled masterly with a brilliant set, clever lighting, wonderful costumes, remarkable musicians and unforgettable special effects. 
Mention must be made of the children from the Myra Tiffin Performing Arts School and Thornton College who act as the chorus. They are on stage throughout the performance and do not disappoint. 
This musical is wacky and off the wall. With its pantomime features – inflatable sheep, talking camels, a dismantled goat -  its unique assortment of musical genres and its talented cast, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat must give great enjoyment to a wide audience.
 
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dreamcoat is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd July.
 
www.atgtickets.com 0844 871 7652 Booking fee applies       
Jun 21st

Rehearsal for Murder - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

20th June 2016

Poster

The Classic Thriller Theatre has brought to the stage a clever, intriguing ‘whodunnit.’ The play was written by Richard Levinson and William Link as a 1982 TV movie, and adapted for the stage by David Rogers. The most striking aspect of Rehearsal for Murder is that it is a play within a play, a nested play (the rehearsal in the title is itself a misnomer). The story itself is straightforward. The playwright Alex Dennison (Alex Ferns) is heartbroken over the death of his fiancée and leading lady Monica Welles (Susie Amy). He is certain she did not take her own life, on the opening night of her stage debut, and is determined to discover who killed her. But the handling of the story is anything but straightforward. 

To unravel the truth, Dennison convenes the same cast and crew to read through a new play a year to the day of the death. The parallels between the new play and the real life situation are plain – even a similar, often muddled, name for the main protagonist. In flashbacks we are introduced to the characters who were present on that fateful night – the blonde starlet and her muscular lover, the sex-obsessed, ageing lothario, the money-obsessed producer – and, according to Dennison, they are all possible murder suspects. The dead leading-lady takes a main part in the unravelling of the mystery, appearing and disappearing into the darkness.

The set design is simple – a poorly furnished disused rehearsal room; the lighting of shadows and spotlights plays an important role in the play. Although these aspects add to the mystery of the play, it is the acting which kept the audience silent and enthralled to the final twist in the tale. Alex Ferns is excellent in his role of Alex Dennison, changing from organised and active to heart-broken and despairing in a few words; his cast, especially Susie Amy, Mark Wynter and Gwynfor Jones wittily personify theatre ‘types’.

Rehearsal for Murder is a well-written, well-performed murder mystery; the who and  why of the murder are ingenious and, I am certain, impossible for any audience to predict. 

Rehearsal for Murder is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 25th June

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

Jun 16th

Guys and Dolls - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 14h June 2016

Guys and Dolls Johann Persson

image credit Johan Persson 

This Chichester Theatre revival of Guys and Dolls is in MK until Saturday 18th June following an extended West End run and wide critical acclaimOriginally performed in 1950 on Broadway, the portrayal of Prohibition-era New York has proved consistently popular over the years. Damon Runyon’s tales of the more colourful characters of the time – the gamblers, hustlers and nightclub performers – are the inspiration for the story. Some of the best-known show tunes ever - Luck be a Lady, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boatdirection by Gordon Greenberg and choreography by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright, means this should be a top show and a great audience experience, yet my impression last night was that this show must be quite different from the West End one that garnered all those incredible reviewsoverall it was enjoyable but felt rather lacklustre 

Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield)in desperate need of a thousand dollars to pay for an overnight illegal gambling venue, persuades hot-shot gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman) to take him on in a wager – the seemingly impossible task of getting straight-laced missionary Sergeant Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) of the Save-a-Soul mission down to Havana for dinner. In the meantime Nathan is trying to secure a venue, avoid Lieutenant Brannigan and deal with his long-suffering fiancé Miss Adelaide (Louise Dearman) who is frustrated by their 14 year engagementwants him to name a date and specifically to ‘go straight’. The complications that ensue provide much of the humour.  

 
Guys and Dolls Johan Persson
 
image credit Johan Persson 
 
Caulfield is vastly experienced on stage and on both small and big screens and should fit the role – he looks right as the low level hustler but often seemed tired in both action and delivery. Fleeshman also looks right - super-cool and while demonstrating some elements of the charming, wise-cracking character of Skythere was a lack of consistency last nightO’Byrne (Sarah Brown), perhaps not the strongest actress or singer, doesn’t seem to have found her feet with the character. It is Dearman who is the outstanding performer - commits to each moment on stage, has the strongest voiceplays to the audience, pitches Adelaide perfectly between sassy, sweet and vulnerable, and has superlative comic timing. She left the other leads in the shadows when she was on stage and her performances of Take Back You Mink and Adelaide’s Lament were extremely funny.
 
Guys and Dolls Johan Persson
 
image credit Johan Persson
 
Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jack Edwards) and sidekick Benny Southstreet (Mark Sangster) were both played with panache and energy and give much of the humour. A sharp, strong and very energetic ensemble were superb really adding to the action and making the most of the choreography and set pieces. Staging is effective with seamless prop changes to depict the Mission, the Hot Box, the club in Havana. A backdrop of advertising signage from the era – Lucky Strike, Coca Cola – serves in most scenes and is lit in various ways.   
Guys and Dolls is not a modern musical, in that it packed full of dialogue - the sharp wordplay of Runyon’s original prose, developed in the Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows book and transformed into Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics are key to enjoyment and need to be transparently clear to pick up on the pace and wit. Perhaps something technically was amiss with the sound last night. From the stalls it seemed that the only source was from the performers’ head mics and from conversation with those in the circle this also seemed so – just not powerful enough, difficult to hear at times especially when performers were turned away from the audience, with lyrics occasionally drowned out by the brilliant orchestra directed by Andy Massey
All the elements are present for a really superb show but last night perhaps there seemed some lack of enthusiasm from some.    
 
Performances: Tue 14 – Sat 18 Jun 
Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) online booking. www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)
May 31st

Annie at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Poster Annie MKReviewed by Alison Smith 30th May 2016

This Annie is a polished production of the well-known musical of the orphaned 11-year-old, who finds security and happiness after years of living in squalor and misery. The musical is concerned, unfortunately, with circumstances which still exist almost 100 years later – the effect of poverty on people’s lives. There is a scene in a Hooverville, the 1920s American equivalent of a shanty town, inhabited by people who, because of economic disasters beyond their control, are penniless and starving. The exact details of the circumstances of Annie’s parents remain hidden, but it is to be imagined that theirs was the same as many fellow Americans; subsequent recessions have had the  same effects.

Paul Coltas Annie 1

Paul Coltas Annie 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111image Paul Coltas

But this portrayal of 1930s America is not all doom and gloom – there is energy and optimism and ultimately this is a rags to riches tale. Orphan Annie, played by Anya Evans on the evening I saw the musical, dominated the stage and is a talent to watch; her dancing and singing were perfect.  Her orphanage friends (Molly, seven –year- old Andie Jordan must have a special mention) were Team Liberty and all excelled in their roles, portraying both vulnerability and strength. Their nemesis, Miss Hannigan, is brought to life by Lesley Joseph, who, apart from her accent, excels in the role of a  mean, drunken, self–centred harridan, who along with her detestable brother Rooster (Jonny Fines) and his sexy, lithe broad, Lily (Djalenga Scott) gratifyingly end up with their just deserts in the arms of the law. Oliver Warbucks is Hannigan’s ruination. Alex Bourne’s strength in this role is the care he takes of Annie (most notably when dancing) and in his imposing presence – this man must be trustworthy just through his height! The ensemble are lively; their roles are reminiscent of comic strip characters and with their delightful costumes and choreography exude exuberance and wit.

Paul Coltas Annie

Image Paul Coltas

The set design must be mentioned.  The design is simple – a map of NYC, hanging jigsaw puzzle pieces (Is it just Annie who is nie trying to fit the pieces of her life together11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 trying to fit the pieces of her life together?), moveable lights, gsaw puzzle pieces (  111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111beds and desks. The contrast between Hannigan’s squalid office, the orphanage dormitory and Warbucks’ gold , deco mansion office is marked. The orchestra is superb.  George Dyer’s interpretation of the well-known songs, notably Tomorrow and Easy Street is refreshing. My one negative comment is that at times the orchestra is so enthusiastic that it drowns the singers.

 This is a musical well worth seeing; the actors are talented, the production accomplished, and the direction exceptional.

Annie is at MK Theatre until Saturday 4th July

www.atgtickets.com

0844 8717652

Booking fee applies

 

Ani111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 cingrom her accent, ge1111111111111111111111111111

 

May 16th

Avenue Q - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

If you thought humans and foam puppets, together, on stage, would be a complete catastrophe, you were wrong. The musical Avenue Q proves this. What the puppets do is allow the actors freedom to be silly, shocking and shameless. The actors are not ventriloquists; they act, sing and move along with the puppets. The show – a long running Broadway production created by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx – is in places funny and in others lewd, but still relevant to personal quandaries. What actual use is my degree?  Can I pay the rent this month? Am I gay? But in 2016 Avenue Q is dated as social satire; such stereotypical characters have long been laughed at (and with), have long challenged our preconceptions and attitudes, and  have long provided easy solutions to the difficulties of being human.

 Avenue Q is the street where the characters live – think Sesame Street with swearing – and the story line is the adventures of Princeton (Richard Love) in his postgrad world of self-doubt and torments, searching for his purpose in life. In his new abode he meets a succession of characters – Brian, an aspiring comedian, (Richard Morse) and his girlfriend Christmas Eve, an unemployed therapist,  (Ariana Li), Rod, a gay  banker (Richard Love) and his straight flatmate Nicky  (Stephen Arden), Trekkie Monster – he lives up to his name -  raunchy Lucy and sweet Kate ( Sarah Harlington) and the caretaker, (Etisyai Philip). The action is centred on the relationship between Princeton and Kate, but supplemented with comments on the wider society, including sexuality, pornography and racism. Just eleven actors portray all the characters, yet still give the feeling of a crowded inner-city street. The actors segue into the different characters; Sarah Harlington changes from girl-next-door (Kate) to harlot (Lucy) seamlessly. Stephen Arden’s two roles are clearly created by his voice adaptations.

 The puppets, created by Paul Jomain, are gaudy– green, yellow, and blue – and the monster puppets, hairy; the actors are dressed somberly so as not to distract from their charges. The puppets and the characters ignore the puppeteers, who become invisible to the audience too. Occasionally one puppet even has two puppeteers and at times a puppeteer may be animating one puppet while voicing another. The songs are verbally entertaining, especially I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today, It Sucks to Be Me and There’s a Fine, Fine Line. The music for the show is provided by a live band led energetically by Dean McDermott. The cast are talented – they can act, sing and puppeteer. The negative aspect of this musical is that the material is dated; if the actors (and puppets) were given more relevant subject matter, the outcome would be a fantastic musical, not just a mediocre one.

At MK Theatre until Saturday 21st May

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies