Music by Lionel Bart Book by Julian Woolford.
The Union Theatre, 229 Union Street, London SE1 0LR to May 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm
Runs 2hr 20 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7261 9876
Review: William Russell 18 April.
Twang aint what it used to be
The youthful cast with stars in their eyes perform with zest in this reworking of the legendary Lionel Bart flop Twang, but that is about the best thing one can say. The original show ran for 43 performances in 1965, with book, music and lyrics by Bart, lost its director Joan Littlewood early on to be replaced by Burt Shevlove. It was one of the most expensive flops of the era. Bart lost a fortune and it proved the end of his career as a creator of hit musicals although he did continue to write songs, one of which, the much later Cliff Richard hit, Loving Doll is shoehorned into this mishmash devised by Julian Woolford head of musical theatre at the Guilford School of Acting and author of How Musicals Work.
It is a nice joke as Alan A Dale tries to compose it throughout the night.
The plot of the original about Robin Hood has been dropped and we get what sounds like a script the Carry On team would have refused to perform mixed with dud Benny Hill gags about how Robin Hood has lost his twang and cannot shoot arrows while living in the woods with his merry men, as gay a bunch of lads as you could find. Little John has the hots for Robin, Will Scarlett camps it up for England, the women are lusty and busty with Jessica Brady as Delphina, the earthiest one, doing her best to steal the show – a waste of her efforts as it is not worth nicking.
The rewrite was approved by the Bart estate, which says little for their wisdom in guarding his inheritance. It would have been fascinating to have seen the original show revived, treated with respect. Possibly, flaws and all, it might have turned out worth seeing – even if not, it would, for all interested in the past of the musical, have been rewarding.
That said the youthful cast go to it with a will. Ms Brady is a delight, Kane Verrall as Will Scarlett is camper than camp, Joe Rose is an appealing Mutch, the obligatory innocent abroad in this world of smut and low camp, and Louie Westwood is an amusing Friar Tuck. Director Bryan Hodgson keeps everyone hurtling around at breakneck speed, which at least means time passes, if not fast enough. The band under Henry Brennan is very good, Kweeva Carvey is a spirited Marian, Peter Noden does what he can as Robin, and Mitchell Harper has devised some athletic choreography.
But an opportunity has been lost. This Twang ain’t what it used to be, except in the sense that it is arguably an even greater flop the original. As for what Bart’s Twang was like, we will probably now never know. A famous review dismissed it as Thud. Alas this version does not even do that.
Robin Hood: Peter Noden.
Marian: Kweeva Carvey.
Much: Joe Rose.
Delphina: Jessica Brady.
Sheriff of Nottingham: Christopher Hewitt.
Little John: Christian Lunn.
Will Scarlett: Kane Verrall.
Hob of the Hill: Stephen Patrick.
Lady Elphaba: Victoria Nicol.
Sir Guy: Ed Court.
Lady Dolly: Francesca Pim.
Dance Captain: Micah Holmes.
Friar Tuck: Louie Westwood.
Ensemble: Chris Draper.
Prince John: Lewis McBean.
Alan A Dale: James Hudson
Director: Bryan Hodgson.
Choreographer: Mitchell Harper.
Musical Director: Henry Brennan.
Set Design: Justin Williams & Jonny Rust.
Costume Design: Penn O’Gara.
Lighting Design: Ben Jacobs