Review: Betty Blue Eyes - Novello Theatre, London

Friday 1st April 2011

Based on the film ‘A Private Function’, Betty Blue Eyes is a new musical set in austerity Britain in an atmosphere of cuts and in the run up to a royal wedding. Adapted by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman and a luscious score created by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, this absolute gem of a show is opening this week at the Novello Theatre. The themes will certainly feel familiar to anyone living in the UK in the current climate. However, the differences between the current cuts and those felt after the war are stark. It’s difficult to leave the theatre without feeling very humbled by the tough experiences of the characters on stage and a distinct awareness of how lucky we are in the 21st Century.

Eccentric Britain is the lifeblood of this show, reflecting the unique British sense of humour and creativity in the face of adversity. I certainly don’t think that Joyce Chilvers’ Spam à l’Orange will be taking the restaurant scene by storm this summer but I could be wrong. The music and whole spirit of the show is infectious and a real credit to the hard work of the entire cast and creative team.

The score is delightful and several songs have hooks that leave them running in your head for hours and even days afterwards. Reece Shearsmith and Sarah Lancashire lead the wonderful cast as husband and wife, Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers. The scene-stealing Ann Emery is a delight as Mother Dear and undoubtedly has some of the most comedic scenes of the musical. Moving effortlessly from street scenes to a farmyard to homes to the toe-tapping music hall the scenery works hard to frame the story without overpowering the simplicity of this typically British tale. The cast takes us on an emotional journey from laughter to desperation in a few short scenes and courtesy of the delightful pig, Betty; I certainly won’t be looking at a bacon sandwich anytime soon!

Never mind the Royal Wedding, for a true taste of Britain and the most delightful pig you will ever meet, Betty Blue Eyes is the place to be this season.