THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
book & lyrics by Ben Elton music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street Southwark SE1 0LX To 3 May 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 8 April.
Things Do Sometimes Change.
The timing of this revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton musical, first staged in the West End in 2000, could hardly be more serendipitous, what with Michael D Higgins, the Irish President, here on a state visit, and, along with the former IRA commander, Martin McGuinness, dining with the Queen at Windsor Castle on its press night; proof that things do change.
It won the Critics’ Circle best musical award, more, I suspect, for the subject matter – it is set in Belfast in 1969 during the troubles – than the score or book, neither outstanding. The book is banal to say the least, and, while Andrew Lloyd Webber is always good for a ballad, ‘All the Love I Have’, the best one, hardly gets a chance to make an impression (it was eventually recycled as ‘Love Never Dies’ in the show of the same name).
Ben Elton’s plot is the old one about young lives and what happens to them as they grow older, some sadder, some wiser. We meet a Catholic youth football team who win the schools’ championship, after which the plain-speaking priest who runs the team, well done by Carl McCrystal, takes a photograph of the boys so they can look at it in years to come.
The show has been directed with efficiency by Lotte Wakeham, but I am not sure her decision to do it as a traverse production was wise. I suppose it has something to do with the layout of a football pitch, spectators on either side.
Directors at the Union are always mucking about with the seating plan, sometimes more successfully than others and this layout ignores the presence of four ugly girder pillars which block the sight lines.
Freddie Rogers as the bigoted boy who becomes an IRA commander shines, Niamh Perry and Ben Kerr as Mary and John, the young lovers whose lives are messed up by the troubles, are pleasing, the band is good and the choreography energetic. It is worth catching, but even reworked it is not one of the Lord’s best shows.
Mary: Niamh Perry.
John: Ben Kerr.
Del: Stephen Barry.
Thomas: Freddie Rogers.
Daniel: Will Jeffs.
Ginger: Alan McHale.
Father O’Donnell: Carl MCrystal.
Christine: Daniella Bowen.
Bernadette: Natalie Douglas.
Portestant Girl/ensemble: Joanna O’Hare
Ensemble: Tom Brandon, Shane McDaid, Charlie Royce, Mark Laverty, Leigh Lothian.
Director: Lotte Wakeham.
Designer: David Shields.
Lighting: Derek Anderson.
Sound: Andy Graham.
Musical Director: Benjamin Holder.
Choreographer: Tim Jackson.