When Harry met Barry has been around for a few years now: it first premiered in 2002, back in the day when the Above The Stag theatre really was above The Stag pub in Victoria. The show, now in it’s fourth incarnation, is currently playing at the Stag’s most recent home under the arches in Vauxhall.
It’s a peculiar premise when the title already tells us the ending, but I suppose it leaves us wondering about the journey rather than the destination.
The story follows four character and their intertwining love lives: Harry, Alice, Spencer and Barry. Their London lives (the setting cutely referred to in David Shields chintzy but effective design) all connect with Harry and Barry journeying via Spencer and Alice on the road to their inevitable destiny – each other.
Act I moves along nicely, with some pleasant tunes and really inventive and effective use of puppetry in the show-stopping ‘We Kissed in Skinny Sue’s House’. ‘Why Ask For The Moon’ is a really hummable tune that I found myself singing in the interval.
Sadly, the wheels fall off at the interval, with writer Paul Emelion Daly packing far too much into the forty minutes that are Act 2. It’s a push, to say the least, to have a glorious reunion, three proposals and a suicide attempt happen in the space of a slightly longer episode of Corrie. It leaves audiences feeling confused and overwhelmed.
The cast are strong, with some lovely voices and strong performances. Maddy Banks excels in particular: her Geordie charm shining through. Though it’s puzzling that Austin Garrett’s Spencer appears on roller skates for one scene for no particular reason (other than his previous experience in Starlight Express)!
The show is short, sweet and enjoyable but really misfires when it reaches for any sort of angst or difficulty. And please, ditch the roller skates!
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
When Harry Met Barry plays at Above The Stage until 11 June 2017