Tag Archives: Betty Blue Eyes

REVIEW: Betty Blue Eyes – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Universally acknowledged as a showcase for Scottish musical theatre stars of the future, The Dance School of Scotland’s 2014 show Betty Blue Eyes doesn’t disappoint.

Based upon Alan Bennett’s screenplay for the 1984 film A Private Function, Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman and composing team Stiles and Drewe’s musical tells the tale of Austerity Britain. It’s 1947 and rationing is still in place two years after the war has ended. Fed up with eating Spam, some less than scrupulous Yorkshire business men decide to secretly raise an unlicensed pig to feast upon at the town’s celebration of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Mountbatten. But into the mix comes mild-mannered chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers, his ambitious wife Joyce and Ministry of Food inspector Wormold and the best laid plans of the town’s great and good don’t quite go to plan.

The cast are, as usual, a knockout, in particular Mari McGinlay as Joyce, in possession of a stand-out voice, a pitch perfect accent and a finely nuanced acting performance, this is a young woman who, to all intents and purposes, is ready and set for the West End right now. As last year, Ryan Hunter turns in a magnetic performance as Dr. Swaby, he is a young man of immense talent and charisma which belie his years. Both can look forward to sparkling careers ahead. The ensemble are universally deserving of praise – maintaining focus and sharpness throughout as well as producing a full and rich sounding chorus.

The set  is simple but effective and high praise must go to the puppet team who successfully bring Betty the pig to life. As someone who saw the 6 figure animatronic version in the West End it was with great interest I awaited Betty’s appearance – I’m happy to say she doesn’t disappoint.

Where the whole endeavour falls down (and indeed the reason for its short West End run) is not the actors or the set or the direction but with the piece itself. Though there are highlights throughout, it is missing that elusive sparkle that makes a show a hit and it ends on a bit of a damp squib. That said, it doesn’t detract from the first-rate performances of the young cast. I look forward to following their future careers.

REVIEW: Betty Blue Eyes – Novello Theatre, London

Despite having a bit of an aversion to musicals based on movies – I booked to see this. According to a unanimous number of reviews, this witty adaptation of the 1984 film A Private Function rises above its original source.

It stars Reece Shearsmith and Sarah Lancashire in the Michael Palin and Maggie Smith roles.

There is, of course, also the pig of the title.

Well, with my half price ticket in hand I went along to see what all the fuss was about. Credit goes to Stiles (music) and Drewe (lyrics) as the songs resist the usual movie transfer fault of being flung in to the story without much sensitivity, these actually reflect the mood of each scene perfectly.

Visually it’s a fabulous re-creation of post-war ration Britain and its small town snobbery. Shearsmith is surprisingly touching as Gilbert, playing the role with real sensitivity. Sarah Lancashire is competent as Joyce but there’s no real sympathy for her character – she just seemed a little detached. However, Adrian Scarborough as the Gestapo – like meat inspector plays his role with total relish. The sets and costumes are really evocative, the music perfectly pitched – so go and see it if you can. The only negative note is the rumour that despite the fantastic reviews and public reception the show is struggling to sell tickets. The worrying thing is that it might not be just a rumour as there were more than a few empty seats throughout the house the day I was there.

Post script (Aug ’11) – regrettably this has now posted closing notices after only 6 months despite fantastic critical reviews and public acclaim – a real pity.