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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Betwixt!
Trafalgar Studios  Summer 2011

This bubbly small-scale musical comedy is delightful, entertaining and disposable. You'll enjoy it immensely and have trouble remembering anything about it the next morning. 

The one warning I should give is that it's a mock, self-parodying fairy tale that sends up all its absurdities even as it commits them, and that kind of archness is not to everyone's taste. 

But if you enjoy camp humour, if the idea of a disembodied head (Don't ask) singing the love song 'I've got no body but you' tickles you, if you can see the comedy in a succubus frustratedly trying to seduce a gay guy, then this is very much your sort of show.

The totally absurd and frequently unfollowable plot has a blocked writer and a very very gay actor somehow entering another dimension, where they encounter, among others, a cursed princess, a trouserless soap opera star, an evil enchantress, some travelling players straight out of Tom Stoppard (or perhaps The Fantasticks) and the aforementioned siren and the bodyless head, with whom the writer naturally enough falls in love. 

Somehow - and I must confess to being a bit hazy about exactly how, and what the moral of the story was – things turn out all right, but by that point no one really cares.

Much of the fun has come from the show's determination not to take itself seriously, with every plot twist or absurd line of dialogue met by an arched eyebrow or disbelieving aside to the audience. 

With book, lyrics, music and direction all by Ian McFarlane, we can be pretty sure we are seeing what that one-man band (Actually, there's a three-man onstage band, but you know what I mean) intended.

If the songs have occasional echoes of Kander, Bernstein and Sondheim, that just proves that McFarlane has the good sense to be influenced by the best, and some of them are more than serviceable. 'Eyes of a Child' and 'Strange Sort of Love Song' are sweet ballads, and 'Paparazzi Rag' is clever – though it was probably a mistake making a singer with a lisp struggle with what comes out as 'Jutht One Kith.' 

Ellen Greene gets star credit for playing three of the fairyland characters, but they are really just extended cameos, and the real stars are Benedict Salter as the writer, Ashleigh Grey as the head (who does eventually get her body back), and especially Steven Webb as the camper-than-camp buddy who gets all the best lines and shamelessly steals every scene.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Betwixt! - Trafalgar Studios 2011

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