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An Officer and a Gentleman at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 10th Jul 2018 | View all blogs by Louise Winter

 

Reviewed by Louise Winter

9 July 2018

 

poster Off and G

 

This is a show that takes itself seriously and those superfans of the early eighties film had to exercise great restraint until the very end when they had a long awaited opportunity to whoop and cheer. Adapted by Douglas Day Stewart and Sharleen Cooper, this production is faithful to the original. Here the overall tone veers more towards the gritty and tormented rather than the soppy and feel good, which may account for the patchiness of the production overall. It feels sometimes as if the show doesn’t know which road to take.

Whilst based around a group of naval college recruits, it is only Zach and Sid’s characters which are fleshed out in any meaningful way. The other male characters are rather one dimensional and that includes Bryon Mayo and Sergeant Foley (the vastly experienced Darren Bennet and Ray Shell respectively). Overall, it is a story about the women and they are the slightly more interesting characters here. An excellent ensemble performance of It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World sets their frustration at their lot as exhausted factory workers with little chance of escape - not unless they can get an officer to literally sweep them off their feet. The older women, Paula’s mother Esther (Rachel Stanley) and Aunt Bunny (Corinna Powlesland) are jaded and world weary as they watch the younger girls become embroiled with the recruits time and time again; they of course know that disaster can be just round the corner. With little opportunity to move on in life, it is inevitable that the factory girls focus their attentions on the recruits as their ticket out. It is the desire for this that drives Lynette more so than Paula and the moral of this story is, of course, that only by being honest, good and true to yourself will you reap rewards.  

It’s a strong cast overall. Jonny Fines gives a good performance as Zach, Emma Williams is excellent as Paula and their pairing alongside Ian McIntosh as Sid and Jessica Daley as Lynette provide the centre of the piece. All have clean powerful voices and can belt out the power ballads that are woven through the show. Most convincing moments are the high energy scenes rather than the quieter more subtle ones, which are slightly uneven in part due to the acting and in part due to some song choices or arrangements seeming incongruous, neither fully fitting nor adding anything to the scene or narrative. However, those that do work well make up for it. Staging is fairly dynamic and inventive with good use of projections and a scaffolded staircase which is effective. Emma Williams at the top of this belting out Alone is the stand out moment of the show.

The corny and predictable ending is well anticipated and some of the audience attempted a little cheer when Zach arrives to ‘rescue’ Paula in his gleaming white officer’s uniform bathed in intense bright light. They soon stopped though as the cheer wasn’t taken up and I think this is a bit of a shame. This show might be better suited to embracing all that is kitsch with the eighties and with this film in particular, shifting the tone slightly towards humour and lightheartedness, which will give the darker aspects of some of the male characters and specifically Sid’s final act more power and pathos. Nevertheless, there were some of the audience standing at the end and strong appreciation for this cast and their  performances.

Plays Milton Keynes Theatre until 14 July 2018 and the continuing tour

Box Office 0844 871 7652

www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Booking transaction fee applies

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