With the audience situated on three sides of the performance space, we were asked by Tina Tickle to tickle the audience member next to us to get us in the mood. I declined but I got where she was coming from. This is silly nonsense but in these troubling times, why not? Directed in his usual inimitable style by Robert McWhir, with book, music and lyrics by Chris Burgess, the whole show was a huge metaphor for the trying times we live in.
Performed by an ensemble that played their respective roles with good intentions, especially Richard Watkins as Tina Tickle who was clearly channelling every Disney Wicked Queen he could conjure up, complete with menacing cackle and exaggerated body gestures.
The catchy opening number called Drab Town was a social commentary on inner city degradation and sets the scene for the two lads, played by James McDowall as Chris and Ben Brooker as Callum, who have to work the all night shift in their local kebab joint to make ends meet. Enter Amy Sutton as Davina Diamond, a power hungry businesswoman, who offers them a chance to get out by entering a tickling competition. With the offer of fame, fortune and riches the lads accept and this is where the story comes into its own. Callum fancies Chris but is too afraid to let him know how he feels as he comes to terms with his own sexuality. This is a good study in also being pals where love and friendship comes in many different forms. Burgess also makes reference to big business, faceless corporate entities that just see profit as the only goal to achieve at the expense of the common man.
The songs are well composed, and heavily influenced by Rogers and Hammerstein, including the inevitable crescendos and big power notes – a fact that is even made a joke of in the musical. Burgess also has a wicked since of humour and it is through some fabulous one lines delivered by Tickle and Diamond that add an all out sinister aspect to the play. This is frothy fun to be enjoyed, performed with zest and zing and will put a smile on your face.