I Heart Michael Ball – Camden Fringe, Etcetera Theatre

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Alexander Millington

Director: Helen Millington

Let’s start with a question, who doesn’t love Michael Ball? The musical theatre superstar who shot to fame as Marius in Les Miserables in the 1980s, a Eurovision sensation and beloved radio show host may now have reached his 60th year but Alexander Millington’s intriguing new show wants to celebrate the eternal glories of that familiar vocal. Performed at the Etcetera Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe, the message of I Heart Michael Ball, is that if you’d don’t love him, you’d better watch out!

Welcoming new members to the bi-annual meeting of the Michael Ball Appreciation Society, Alex is a little on edge. It can’t be the crowd-pleasing rendition of Ball’s Hot Stuff that plays as you arrive, nor the mini biography of the singer that everyone is here to celebrate, but as Alex opens up about his own love of Michael Ball, about the brother who shared his passion and the difficult home life that further bred his obsession, something is clearly wrong and Alex has a surprise in store.

Written and performed by Alexander Millington to a shamefully small audience of just four patrons, I Heart Michael Ball is a treat, a carefully constructed character study in which revelations and subtle shifts in tone probe at the border of enthusiasm and obsession. The nervy repression that Alex emits from the moment he walks on stage creates a sense of unease, something which Millington carefully unfolds over the course of 60-minutes, creating great empathy but also a slight fear of this protagonist that generates plenty of tension.

Of course, it is packed with Michael Ball trivia all thoroughly researched, naming specific albums from his decades long career, outlining the singer’s education and career trajectory that Alex and his brother dream of emulating as they sing along in George’s car. Alex even performs a couple of numbers, harmonising with Ball’s own vocals. It carefully creates the feel of an authentic society, of a special club that only the people in this room are part of and woe betide anyone who questions the monster vocal talents of our mutual hero – as a musical theatre lecturer at a Welsh university learns to his cost.

And that spark of danger, of something not being quite right is what sets this monologue apart. Millington plants a few clues along the way – Alex fidgeting with the many plasters on his fingers, the muffled sounds of something off stage and later more visceral indications of what he is really up to, although you probably won’t guess what that is. But this is balanced with a vivid and claustrophobic impression of a boy growing up in the shadow of a brother he equally admired, of domestic abuse and disappointment that have shaped this character so meaningfully and make such sense of the purity of Ball’s music choices as a means of escape for a young boy with little to hope for.

Millington’s performance never falters, not an easy proposition with a small audience, presenting Alex’s psychology in all its complexity, sweet but dangerous though it may be. There are small amounts of audience interaction that aren’t too scary and I Heart Michael Ball never mocks that idea of loving its hero so, even with the direction this story takes, in a way the man himself would surely be flattered to be so adored. This show deserves more than an audience of four so show it a little bit of love, it really will change everything.

Runs until 7 August 2022

The Camden Fringe runs from 1-28 August 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Show some love

Show More

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button