Saturday, 22 March 2014

Review: Molly Wobbly, Phoenix Artists Club,

"My dreams are as dead as this romance is"

Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory was originally scheduled to receive a full production at the Hackney Empire last year but a last minute financial crisis saw it cancelled. Now trimmed down to Molly Wobbly and slimmed down to a staged concert, it has resurfaced at the Phoenix Artists Club, with some of the cast returning together with some newcomers, to give Paul Boyd’s musical another chance at airing in London.

And it has to be said that the intimate venue feels a much better fit than the Empire would ever have been. The show clearly has visions of cult status, its bizarrely eccentric book incorporating boob jokes aplenty, cross-dressing angels and tales of sexual deviancy alongside the marital trials of three couples who live on Mammary Lane whose lives are changed with the arrival of a mysterious lime-green-haired stranger bearing a vial of orange potion.

And Boyd’s score is an eclectic mixture of standard musical theatre tropes, gothic fairytale and something close to melodic pop. ‘Designed by Margaret Brown’ is an 11 o’clock number to rival any other, the theme that heralds mysterious goings-on evokes Tim Burton’s work, and ‘Suddenly at All’ sounds like it could be an ABBA b-side. Much of it is highly tuneful but the breadth of its variety means that show never quite achieves a coherent identity.

The performance choices also span a wide range, almost always raising a smile but never quite gelling. In the intimacy of the Phoenix Artists Club and in the staged concert format, it never really feels like too much of a problem. But on a wider stage, it is hard to see how the full gamut from Alastair Brookshaw’s taciturn Malcolm to Jordan Lee Davies’ overdone Kitten would have worked effectively. 

But Brookshaw does team up well with Christopher Finn and Conleth Kane as the three hapless husbands, emotionally estranged in their own ways from the wives, also played well by Leanne Jones (hers is the 11’o clock belter), Kate England and Lucy Garrioch. I also enjoyed Russell Morton’s almost-cartoon villainish IThankYou, his vamping capturing the right tone for the camper side of the production. But personally it feels like the show needs a little more work before aiming for bigger stages again. 

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 19th March

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