The Theatre of Music Hall
Loft Theatre, Leamington, until October 5
Reviewer: Peter McGarry
Music Hall is alive and well and living in Leamington.
They’re all here, those blasts from the past: Marie Lloyd, Vesta Tilley, Harry Lauder, Florrie Forde et al. And, with apologies to Mr Chairman, it’s thanks to a positively prepossessing plethora of playful picturesque performances punctuated by poignant and pulsating pizazz.
Astonishingly, the creator and director of this memory-laden spectacular is a young man, Sean Glock, who would not have been even a twinkle when those greats were strutting their stuff. But his dedication to the genre has led to a show which marks a notable first for the Loft company: its own home-grown music hall milestone.
For many bemused by the dubious world of reality television, here is an object lesson in the true meaning of entertainment. From Robert Lowe’s brilliantly boisterous Harry Lauder to Rachel Adams splendidly re-living the stage-craft of Marie Lloyd, we are there in the Good Old Days. But we also move forward in decades as the production takes us on from music hall through variety and into revue.
Step forward Sue Moore, lustily Waiting at the Church and later trilling about Twinkley Bits with great aplomb. Radio comedy of the Fifties takes its turn with Sean Glock, Robert Lowe and Robert Lister fine-tuning the camp creativity of Messrs Horne, Paddick and Kenneth Williams.
There is more, much more, and the overall skill of the show lies in its readiness for instant mood change. Thus there is real melancholic charm in Martin Cosgrif’s softly-delivered My Old Dutch, contrasting with Elaine Freeborn’s hilarious spooky excesses with The Ghost of Sarah Porter.
The age ranges of the cast echo the fact that this is a show to be enjoyed by all. Its style is further enhanced by a proficient Mr Chairman from Robert Lister, excellent musical accompaniment by Jonathan Fletcher, and Richard Moore’s set design which takes us right where we’re meant to be.
Add to all this the song sheets and an audience that needs no encouragement to join in and you have a local stage rarity that shouldn’t be missed.