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Crush – A Smashing Musical Comedy at the Richmond Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 1st Oct 2015 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin


Miss Bleacher (Rosemary Ashe), the girls and Miss Austin (Sara Crowe)

Schools without art breed savages and socialists.

When Maureen Chatwick wrote the book for Crush she was inspired by the girls' school stories that were so popular before World War II and then disappeared because they were considered subversive in the patriarchal society of the 1950s. Men were not the centre of women's existence in these books nor were the women portrayed as helpless and in constant need of male protection because of their childlike nature. Members of the audience who are familiar with girls' school stories will recognise many of the motifs in Chatwick's book, such as the despotic replacement headmistress and the saviour in disguise.

The musical is set in 1963 at the Dame Dorothea Dosserdale School for Girls which has a proud tradition for fostering free spirits. When Miss Bleacher takes over as the new headmistress, she immediately tries to instal a dictatorial regime, ordering the girls to spy on each other and drilling them to become obedient housewives and future mothers of the sons of England. The first things to disappear are the hockey team and lessons in art as they might distract from what is really important. The girls rebel against the new agenda and they have a fierce advocat in Miss Austin but Miss Bleacher has a secret weapon – an informer. When Susan and Camilla are threatened with expulsion, they run away to London but are determined to return to save their school.

This delightfully quirky coming-of-age musical about friendship and fighting for what you believe in boasts an impressive musical score by composer and lyricist Kath Gotts who might well become one of the major players in British musical theatre. Her jazzy tunes are skilfully choreographed by Richard Roe and also include touching solos like "A Young Heart" and "What Good Is Life?" whereas Rosemary Ashe is permitted a veritable tour de force with her two solo numbers "The Future Mothers of the Future Sons of England" and "I Ask for Nothing".

The creative stage design by David Farley changes from a school set that resembles comic art, possibly inspired by the girls' school story books, and then changes to a collage of London sights, culminating in the creation of a lavish night club. 

Directed by Anna Linstrum, the musical successfully spoofs typical schoolgirl stories but it also discusses feminist issues and centres on a lesbian relationship. Rosemary Ashe rules the roost as the mean spirited Miss Bleacher but there is strong opposition from Sara Crowe as the kind-hearted Miss Austin and Kirsty Malpass as hockey teacher Miss Givings who has one of the best lines in the show. Stefanie Clift gives a very good performance as the rebellious Susan, who suffers from a severe case of teenage angs,t and Brianna Ogunbawo convinces as the pragmatic Daimler who is Susan's best friend. James Meunier shows his versatility as Dorian and a world-famous star that shall remain unnamed for now.

A thoroughly enjoyable show for a great evening out.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 3rd October 2015 at the Richmond Theatre, then touring.


Photos provided by ATG.



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