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Hot off the stage: Betty Blue Eyes is nicely nostalgic
Updated 2:52pm Tuesday 15th July 2014 in News
I LIKE nothing better than sitting at home with my cardigan buttoned up, book on my knee, slippers on my feet and a packet of ginger nuts to dunk and a cup of Ovaltine at the ready.
A world that Alan Bennett creates with his homely reflections on life.
I don't really.
I prefer Horlicks.
It's just that when I hear anything to do with headmasterly Mr Bennett I go off on an imaginary journey into a long, lost world - firmly set in pre and post-war Britain.
Like tea and cinnamon toasted muffins, Bennett's work is an acquired, yet cosy, taste.
He is one of this country's greatest satirists but that was when he was in the '60s smashing show Beyond the Fringe with Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore and legendary Peter Cook.
Bennett's solo literary work is studied by schools and unfortunately he is called a 'National Treasure.' That's not his fault.
Now here's a musical based on his work.
A fully-fledged all-singing, all-dancing musical with a capital M.
A Private Function was a well-received film with witty dialogue that was crisp and sharp with some wonderful performances from Michael Palin and Maggie Smith.
Since 2011 it has been turned into a musical version with big band numbers in the West End.
Now this co-production with the Playhouse working with three of their favourite theatres from around the country shows yet another creative direction the Everyman and Playhouse are happy to develop.
It is based on the Alan Bennett screenplay so there are the literary gems to be heard It has since been tweaked.
But does it work?
If you haven't seen the film, then yes.
If you have seen the film then you will be comparing it throughout.
That's always the way with any adaptations - stage to screen and screen to stage.
Betty Blue Eyes is the pig of the title that will be sacrificed for a civic dinner in 1947 to mark the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.
But it is an age of austerity and rationing and council interference and parochial pettiness - all of which are are placed here on the menu of theatrical mayhem.
Our male hero Gilbert Chivers, played by Haydn Oakley, is a chiropodist who has moral dilemmas.
His wife Joyce, played stylishly by Amy Booth Steel, feels she is a nobody and sings about it.
There are well rounded characters who are straight out of an Ealing Comedy. A very strong versatile cast - 17 all in.
Here, whenever a song has to be sung, it is and with gusto and sensitivity in equal measure.
The title song and the high-energy Steal The Pig being two highlights.
The music, created by a slick four-piece band, sometimes overshadows the dialogue and yet there is so much love and affection in this two-hour plus show.
The period feel and costumes take the audience back in time.
The star is the adorable pig that is Betty (a clever puppet) whose eyes alone want you to save her bacon.
All credit to puppeteer Lauren Logan who also doubles up in other roles.
Betty Blue Eyes, directed with sparkle by Daniel Buckroyd is an ensemble piece which has some fine solo performances and catchy songs covering all genres.
I would love to see the stage version without the music and padding.
It is an enjoyable new experience and Andrew Wright's choreography is delightful.
It is has something for everyone - humour, mystery (will they - won't they ... kill our animal hero?).
Happily, it is a story with a beginning, middle and end - factors often missing from many productions these days.
8/10 Nicely Nostalgic
The show is at the Liverpool Playhouse until August 2. Tickets from (0151) 709 4776.