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Posted by : Mark-Courtice on Jul 15, 2009 - 11:43 PM Archive
Newbury.

SPEND SPEND SPEND!
music by Steve Brown book and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene from the book by Viv Nicholson and Stephen Smith.

Watermill Theatre To 29 August 2009.
Mon-Sat 7.30 pm Mat Thu and Sa 2.30 pm except 29th August 1.30 and 6.30 pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.

TICKETS: 01635 46044.
www.watermill.org.uk
Review: Mark Courtice 13 July.

Money doesn't bring happiness, but it's fun finding out why.


It's quite a task adapting the story of Viv Nicholson (who won the Pools in the 1960s and vowed to "spend, spend, spend") as a musical. Not only does it feel like an doom-laden warning to all those who fancy their 14 million-to-one chances with the lottery, but the trajectory of this story is perverse for a musical, moving as it does from happiness to gloom.

By placing a real passion at the centre of the story, and by viewing the Yorkshire "salt of the earth" community cliché with a beady eye, Steve Brown and Justin Greene make it more equivocal, and political, so the show takes its place with The Full Monty and Brassed Off in a trio of 1990s Yorkshire working class musicals.

Here, much of the show, especially in the first act, is good fun. Sarah Travis's arrangements of Brown's jolly show tunes are superb; tight, witty and effectively using actor/musician resources for power and depth. Diego Petarch's neat pub set makes room for a big (for this tiny venue), and energetic, cast.

While it's disconcerting that every character has an instrument attached, the level of skill of the performers is exceptional.

Karen Mann (trumpet) is a super talent as the older Viv, but Kirsty Hoiles (penny whistle) meets the challenge of being her younger self triumphantly. She is sexy, focused and believable while dancing and singing a storm. The pair of them make the widowed Viv's desperate search for another great love in a succession of rotten husbands genuinely moving.

Greg Barnett's (cello and guitar) handsome Keith is convincing as a partner in a great passion, and a great folly. The ensemble cast work hard, playing, singing and sketching in a range of characters.

Craig Revel Horwood's direction and choreography aren't subtle as he hunts for fun, reflecting Viv's boozy, bawdy and buggered-up life with lots of Viz-like crudity. The failure to find the authentic Yorkshire accents - generic "Northern" and all the miners with dirty faces - weakens the force of the political message while pointing up the crude moral that money doesn't bring happiness.


Keith: Greg Barnett.
Graham/Various: Robin Colyer.
Brucie/Bank Manager: Neil Ditt.
Policeman/Tax Inspector: Christian Edwards.
Young Viv: Kirsty Hoiles.
George: Graham Kent.
Liz: Liz Kitchen.
Viv: Karen Mann.
Sue/Tart/Various: Tara Nelson.
Matt/Estate Agent: Kit Orton.
Vicar/Various: David Osmond.
Mrs Waterman/Florrie: Susannah Van Den Berg.

Director/Choreographer: Craig Revel Horwood.
Designer: Diego Pitarch.
Lighting: Nick Richings
Sound: Chris Full.
Musical Arranger: Sarah Travis.
 
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