Book: Fiona English
Music and lyrics: David Eaton
Director: Benji Sperring
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Lin Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton has already been followed across the Atlantic by the off-Broadway parody Spamilton and now, within a matter of weeks, comes this new variation, based loosely on the life and career of Britain’s World Formula 1 champion. What next we wonder, Hamilton (Neil and Christine)?
Standing behind a row of toy cars, boy and girl racers (two of each) begin with a string of disclaimers, presumably to dodge writs from Miranda, Hamilton and others, but the most significant one is to prime the audience not to expect too much rap (“it took years to write Hamilton”). This is a disappointment, because Miranda demonstrated how rap can advance story-telling and give a musical an unstoppable rhythm. With so little rap, the show often stalls and all that we get are David Eaton’s very ordinary songs linked together by tired jokes and too much talk.
What Fiona English’s book tells us is that, in common with so many sporting superstars before him, Lewis is not very interesting. He is portrayed here by Letitia Hector as a naive young man who has zero personality, mentored by his team boss (Jamie Barwood). He contrasts with a red-cloaked, pantomime villain Fernando Alonso (Louis Mackrodt). “You can’t be a winner just by driving fast” Alonso advises the novice, pointing him in the direction of branding and high profile girlfriends. Enter Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger (Liberty Buckland), whose involvement with Lewis is seen here as more of a publicity stunt than a romance.
Director Benji Sperring harnesses the energy of the four performers well, but he is hampered by a stage that is too big and the whole feel is of a show being poorly thought-through and quickly thrown together. There is clear scope for improvement and it should all become slicker during its run. In the meantime, good humour is not enough to carry it and it is good only in patches, as checkered as the flag that our hero wants so much to pass first.
Runs until 26 August 2018 | Image: Contributed