by Styles & Drewe.
5 Stars *****
The Union Theatre, Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, Southwark, London SE1 0LR to 22 April.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed, Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.
Tickets: 020 7261 9876
Review: William Russell 1 April
A hoot, a hit and lots of birds
This is a joyful revival of possibly the best Styles and Drewe musical. First seen in 1993 it comes up as fresh as the day it was written
It has a first rate cast led by Liam Vincent-Kilbride in the title role of Ugly, the duckling who could not quack but only honk, hatched by a duck called Ida played by Ellie Nunn. Kilbride, all wrapped up in grey woollies and sporting nerdish specs makes a fine innocent abroad who learns there is nothing wrong with being different, while Nunn, who has a fine voice, catches all Ida’s fondness for her chick even if she cannot quite work out why he is not like the others and her sorrow at losing him.
The seven strong cast in Andy Room’s imaginative production deliver a host of characters Ugly meets along the way – he is a kind of Candide duckling – perfectly metmorphosising from one to the other in a flash and also play a host of instruments to augment the band under Oli Rew. Could check list them all, but take it they rise to the occasion.
It is a given that the Stiles tunes are good and the Drewe lyrics witty – this is, after all, an award winning show seen in various productions worldwide by millions in the last twenty three years. The one tiny flaw is that some of the lyrics get lost in transmission, a pity because what you do hear is hilarious and to the point.
Perhaps a little less volume from the band which suffers from the Union’s tendency to situate it under a staircase at one side of the auditorium would help as this has happened before. The location acts as a kind of loud speaker and the music runs over the voices rather than supports them.
But this is to quibble. A better treat for an Easter outing would be hard to find. Honk is, of course, based on the Hans Anderson story about the duckling who learns to cope with the ways of the world in which he is different and therefore does not belong – until, of course, he grows up into a swan. Not quite sure that I would go along with director Room’s view about the show’s special relevance to the world of Brexit and Trump – it is a tendency for theatre folk to utter such sentiments at the moment about whatever they are working on. Those who are different have always been outcasts from society. But let that pass. Go, be entertained and learn a thing or two about living with people different from oneself.
Ugly: Liam Vincent-Kilbride.
Ida: Ellie Nunn.
Cat: Sam Sugarman.
Drake/Greylag: Leon Scott.
Turkey/Bullfrog/Jack Daw/Father Swan: Robert Pearce.
Maureen/Henrietta/Lowbutt/Pink Foot/ Penny: Emily Goad.
Director: Andy Room.
Musical Director: Oli Rew.
Choreographer: Lily Howkins.
Set Designer: Emily Bestow.
Costume Designer: Rosemary Elliott-Danes.
Puppet Designer: Phoebe Hill.
Lighting Designer: Tim Deiling.