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Theatre review: Betty Blue Eyes 
19th-May-2011 11:19 pm
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Having booked tickets for Betty Blue Eyes a couple of months into its run, I wondered whether I'd actually get to see it since it's landed at the Novello theatre, where shows go to die. It's still open though so Evil Alex and I got to see the new musical tonight, although I'd not bet on it surviving its whole current booking period into next year - the whole Upper Circle and Balcony got upgrades. It's a pretty faithful (apart from the ending) adaptation of Alan Bennett's film A Private Function in which a chiropodist (Reece Shearsmith) and his wife (Sarah Lancashire) are looked down on in their post-war Yorkshire village; on realising they've not been invited to a private dinner celebrating Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip's wedding, they decide to steal the titular illegal pig that was due to be the main course. Styles & Drew wrote the new songs for Mary Poppins and their songs here have a similar feel. It's a very warm-hearted show with the odd sad moment about the realities of post-war Britain (particularly in "Magic Fingers" as Gilbert's chiropody patients reflect on the husbands they've lost) but for the most part it's comedy that ranges from Bennett's witticisms to the farts of an animatronic pig.

The leads are good, Lancashire clearly channelling Maggie Smith's original performance, while Adrian Scarborough has slipped his chains at the National to pop across the river and play an oddly Gestapo-like Wormold (his "Painting by Heart" is a demented highlight.) Evil Alex raved about Tim Hatley's elaborate set designs although it was Annalisa Rossi's impression of the Queen that really set him off on uncontrollable laughter. The slight story's dragged out a little bit too long but overall it's daft fun and well worth seeing.

Betty Blue Eyes by Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman, George Styles and Anthony Drew, based on A Private Function by Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray, is booking until the 28th of January 2012 at the Novello Theatre.
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