Tag Archives: Simon Snashall

Dropping the Soap

SUMMER STREET

The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham, Friday 10th May, 2019

 

Four actors from a defunct Australian soap opera are reunited for a commemorative special in which they are to play all the parts (“Nobody will notice”).  Their week of rehearsals will culminate in a live broadcast.  There is a lot at stake.

That’s the premise of Andrew Norris’s bonzer new musical, which satirises the sunny optimism of the shows that dominated television in the 1990s.  The rehearsal scenes are hilarious, sending up the exposition-heavy dialogue, the public service information, and the outlandish plots.  But Norris intersperses them with glimpses into the actors’ lives.  We see the effects of being killed off and being unable to escape your typecasting.  The show is much more than silly satire; there is substance here in the melodrama of the actors’ real lives.

The songs are stonkers.  Disillusioned Angie, now working at a fish counter, sings the searing ‘Take the Knife’ bringing the show’s first dark moment.  Brock and Marlene belt out a smashing duet, ”Don’t Give Up” – the soap was a musical serial, a genius idea, ripe with comic potential.  There’s a brilliantly catchy parody, “Lucky Plucky Me” that infects my mind for the rest of the evening.  The highlight though is “Chains Around My Heart” in which Bobbi (the amazing Sarah-Louise Young) treats us to a dazzling display of vocal dexterity while parodying pretentious pop videos and earnest oversinging.  The number, quite rightly, brings the house down.

Young is hilarious as budding lesbian-mechanic Bobbi, and she is matched by Myke Cotton’s Brock (with mullet attached to his cap!).   Simon Snashall plays the father figures and the doctor – a deathbed scene is painfully funny – while Julie Clare is practically perfect as veteran soap actress Steph, who plays the soap’s busybody Mrs Mingle, and star-crossed lover Marlene.

Special mention goes to Pogo, the soap’s canine superstar, who makes a vital contribution to the plot!

The laughs keep coming but I get the sense of an underlying affection for the material that inspired the mockery.  There is also commentary here about the changes in televisual fare reflecting a loss of innocence and optimism in society, as the sunshine soaps have been usurped by so-called reality TV.

Thoroughly exhilarating, this show, like the serials it sends up, ought to run and run indefinitely!  With book, music, lyrics and direction all coming from the same man, Andrew Norris is some kind of genius, I reckon.

I loved it.

summer street

Mullet over: Myke Cotton as Brock

 

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Nice and Horrible

HORRIBLE CHRISTMAS

Derby Theatre, Thursday 2nd January, 2014

 

This year’s Christmas show at Derby Theatre is a refreshing departure from the ubiquitous traditional fare – although there are some elements of panto to it: we get to boo the baddies and cheer the good guys, for example.

Horrible Histories mastermind Terry Deary has written a story that amuses and informs without being didactic or labouring its message.  Young boy Watson (Mark Newnham) sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to open a couple of presents, only to witness the arrival of evil Sidney Claus, the antithesis to Father Christmas, and his reindeer sidekick Rudolph.  This pair has come to steal the presents rather than deliver any.  Sidney’s master plan is to destroy Christmas forever.

Watson teams up with chirpy detective Shirley Holmes (Sarah Pelosi) and the scene is set for a time-travelling romp that takes us back to Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, Henry VIII and so on, all the way to Bethlehem and King Herod.  On the way we learn about the origins of certain traditions like roast turkey for dinner and Christmas stockings, but these facts are always incidental to the fun.

Andrew Vincent is an enjoyable villain, with Simon Snashall amusingly dim as his side of venison.  The ensemble double up on parts; favourites for me are Elizabeth Rose as Oliver Cromwell’s dour Mrs debunking Christmas carols  (Good ‘King’ Wenceslas was only a Duke, you know) the Puritans’ production number and the marvellously flamboyant, rapping Charles II.

As you’d expect, if you’ve seen the brilliant TV series, there is a lot of silliness, fun with anachronisms, and plenty of wit in the lyrics to the jolly songs.

In fact, my only reservation is it’s not horrible enough.  The emphasis here is on fun and there is even a touching moment of forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s just that I was expecting a bit more gore and a lot more pooh.

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