Who could resist a production previously reviewed as “brilliantly bonkers”? Wayne Gumble’s musical comedy touches on football, family and nostalgia via all sorts of nutty detours and you’ll be glad to hear does indeed live up to that particular label.
Stand and Deliver had its first outing in 2012 and has apparently been significantly “stripped back, reworked and rewritten”. My mind boggles trying to contemplate quite how crammed with stuff it must have been before if we were watching a leaner, less cluttered version. The performers danced and sang, they also leapt, writhed, strutted, shouted, camped it up, died, came back to life, defied the fourth wall, one of them wore a monkey for a beard and another smothered herself in something squirty.
It does almost defy description. As one of the cast remarks, “There’s a plot?” In essence, a single father of two takes a trip down memory lane in his garage – all the way back to the ’80’s – and due to some magic powers inherent in an old football fanzine called Naughty Sport (a real football fanzine created by Mr Gumble himself) is able to time-travel to 1731 to realise his ambition to be a highwayman. So far so good? How about the tv crew in his garage? How about the sudden appearance of ’80’s star player Boscombe Chart? Just let the chaos wash over you!
The choreography (Alfred Taylor-Gaunt) was inspired, the music (Daniel Turek) very accomplished, there were some very good jokes and the cast had a phenomenal amount to say, dance and do.
As Frank Goldenboy’s kids, Rob Peacock and Robyn Howe held the performance together with strong performances. Robyn clearly has a beautiful singing voice and her temps levees ain’t bad either. Adam Scott Pringle as Boscombe Chart and Fenton is a very safe pair of hands. Sara Lynam as Ulrika Pearce took the moniker “bonkers” and ran with it. She was totally on top of her role and was a joy to watch, whether dry-humping everything with a Y-chromosome or wriggling horizontally on the floor for one reason or another. Joey Bartram was brilliantly cast. He summoned up the right balance of sleaze and vulnerability for his role and almost seemed under-used. Laura Coutts as Penny Flats was the perfect pantomime villain: sexy and mean. And what a treat to see Rebecca Travers step out of her football kit into Nell Cleavidge’s tavern-wench outfit. Again, I would have liked to see more of her (ooer missus). She hit the perfect note with the ludicrous innuendo we love so much in this country.
There was a clear difference in ability and even enthusiasm amongst the performers. It did feel at times that the production would work just as well if not better with a small cast.
One small gripe that I just can’t let go: the play’s central song, “Stand and Deliver” was fluffed by the singer. A couple of other memory lapses didn’t matter too much but this tune is of no small significance and as an old ’80’s teenager, my heart broke a little when I heard the slip-up.
Tiny details were wonderful to spot: Mmbop’s temporary Flock of Seagulls haircut and the SFX “wind machine”, for example. Part of the charm of this production does lie in its frantic chaos but I do feel even more stripping back of the structure and script could be worthwhile: a less is more approach, perhaps. Also, devoting more time at the start to explaining the going-on wouldn’t harm the essence of it all. (And exactly how a football programme enables time travel – as well as how two other characters were able to get to 1731 without it).
The closing medley ensures the piece ends on a wonderful high note. This kind of ensemble work is where the strength of the production lies. A great night out that even a football phobic individual like me can enjoy.
Reviewed by Alison Bray
Stand and Deliver is playing at the Kings Head Theatre on 1, 8, 15 March 2015. Click here for more information and to book tickets.