Betty Blue Eyes by Trinity Laban
Betty Blue Eyes by Trinity Laban
(Review by guest blogger Katrina Summerfield)
Betty Blue Eyes is an entertaining piece of musical theatre, ideal for showcasing a very talented cast with excellent lead and cameo roles and Trinity Laban did this with effortless style. Betty Blue Eyes is an adaptation of Alan Bennett’s 1984 film “A Private Function” and was written 26 years ago into a musical that affectionately pokes fun at the small-town politics and petty snobbery of post-war Britain.
The storyline is not very deep and is centred around Betty, an adorable pig who is being illegally reared to ensure the local dignitaries can celebrate the Royal Wedding with a lavish banquet while the local population make do with spam.
Brendan Mageean was totally believable as the geeky chiropodist Gilbert with his stammering and awkwardness, and his comic timing with the housewives as they performed the number “Magic Fingers” was a standout performance to me as they made him into the local heart-throb. Rebecca d’Lacey was excellently cast as Joyce, Gilbert’s housewife and the strong heroine of the piece.
The dream sequence in “Nobody” was a welcome bit of glitz and glamour from the post-war Britain scenes and showed d’Lacey’s stunning singing range. I particularly loved the piano teacher scenes and the interactions with the supporting actors which created great comedy, notably Poppy Cooper as Veronica and Barney Fritz as Dr James Swaby. Inspector Wormold was the villain of the piece as the meat inspector and he gave a very sinister performance as he relished painting illegal meat to render it uneatable and yet he kept the humour of the piece – particularly when he came out of the toilet after spying on the town council members with toilet roll on his shoe.
Having strong leads meant the storyline was in safe hands, but it was the strong supporting characters that helped to make this piece exciting. Jenny Coates as “Mother Dear” was the perfect addition to the Chilvers family and her old lady antics and characterisation provided much of the comedy, in face she stole the scene in “Pig, no Pig!”. When the council members and policeman all ended up at the Chilvers residence it became a bit like a farce which was most entertaining and fast paced.
The pig was obviously not going to be real, and when Betty first appeared off-stage in her pen I thought that we were going to have to use our imagination. But then she bounded onto stage and the animators performed with such commitment that you forgot they were there. This gave some tender moments when Jake Lomas performed Betty Blue Eyes as Henry Allardyce. “A place on the parade” gave a little taster of the dancers’ skills and I relished the jive numbers which were exquisitely choreographed and showed that this school has some exceptional dancers. The choreography was in keeping with the period and was used in appropriate scenes. The female ensemble were well drilled in the company scenes and gave some powerful character performances. The harmonies in their singing were clear and precise. However, in places the ladies overpowered the male ensemble but that might have been down to some sound issues with mic’s.
The staging was very basic with shop fronts on wheels being turned to reveal inside the shop, but it worked effectively along with the upper stage to allow two scenes at once. The lighting helped to separate the stage and the spotlight were used well. There was a good use of single props to demonstrate a place like a kitchen table for the Chilvers’ home, the beer glasses to signify the pub etc. The costumes worked well for the period and style and considering it was post-war Britain there were still flashes of colour, so it wasn’t too dreary.
There was a big band of exceptionally talented musicians which I would expect no less from Trinity Laban. However, at times they overpowered the singers in the company numbers, but the balance was fine in the solo numbers. But the musicians worked well together and the audience was clapping along in the Entr’act to the upbeat tempo numbers.
Trinity Laban performed this piece with relish and showed they were a truly accomplished cast. However, as a musical the storyline is weak and frivolous for me with no real journey. There are some memorable songs with excellent comedy and these outshone the main part of the story in that Joyce realises that her husband is her lionheart after all. It worked as a vehicle for showcasing the amazing talents of all performers but probably isn’t a show I’d rush to see again.
Review by Katrina Summerfield.