Fed up with grey skies and election doom, I escaped this week to the French Riviera for some guaranteed fun and sunshine. All this without even leaving Southwark! The Menier Chocolate Factory’s latest production, The Boyfriend by Sandy Wilson, is a brightly lit, colourful romp and would warm the cockles of even the weariest Londoner’s heart, writes Katie Kelly
The 1950s’ show is set in a ‘finishing school’ full of giggling girls who are all desperately in search of that life essential, The Boyfriend. Amara Okereke, fresh from success in Oklahoma at the Chichester Festival theatre, and Dylan Mason impress as the star-crossed young lovers, Polly and Tony. Polly is the daughter of a millionaire, posing as a secretary to find a man who isn’t just interested in her money. Tony, working as a messenger boy, has his own secrets to hide. They sing together of their humble aspirations for a simple ‘Room in Bloomsbury’, to knowing chuckles from the audience before being separated in a predictable plot twist. Will they be reunited at the ball? Will they Charleston the night away together? No plot spoilers here.
Janie Dee as the school principal, Madame Dubonnet, has a bit of a wandering accent but her comic timing is always in exactly the right place. The highlight of her performance was the powerful and poignant rendition of ‘Poor little Pierrette’ which created a moment of genuine emotion in what is a mostly ‘frothy’ show. Adrian Edmondson brings a comic, though rather un-PC touch, to the ageing philanderer Lord Brockhurst.
The dancing and music throughout are splendid. Hats off to the choreographer, who at one point gets all 19 cast members twirling on the small stage. The showstopper Charleston is irresistible and we also get a tango, waltz and quickstep. The music swings along with some fabulous vocal performances. If heart-warming, distracting fun is what you are in need of this Christmas then get yourself a ticket quickly as Menier shows can sell out fast.
Menier Chocolate Factory,53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU until 7th March 2020. Times: Tues – Sat 8pm. Weekend matinees 3.30pm. Admission: £47.50, £39.50. Phone: 020 7378 1713 (£2.50 transaction fee per booking)