Book: Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade
Music: Julian Slade
Lyrics: Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade
Director: Bryan Hodgson
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
You might not be too familiar with Salad Days, written as a summer show by the youthful Julian Slade (just 24) and Dorothy Reynolds for the Old Vic in 1954, but you can see why, against all expectations, it transferred from there to the West End where it ran for six years. Full of fun, this madcap musical has had revivals every twenty years or so, bringing a bit of sunshine to old and new audiences.
Tim and Jane, just graduated from university, are looking to avoid the realities of adulthood and are planning to spend the summer having some fun. Jane’s mother (Wendi Peters) just wants her married off, while Tim’s well-connected parents (Valerie Cutko and Jon Osbaldeston) are planning a prestigious job for him. When Jane and Tim meet a mysterious man with a rather magical piano, the summer is about to get a bit more interesting.
Salad Days is possibly the frothiest musical possible. It doesn’t have any messages, there’s no emotional complexity, and nobody has any obstacles to overcome. What it has is people who can’t stop dancing, a comedy copper, young love, a dress shop and a beauty salon, an Egyptian-themed nightclub and some wacky unexpected twists. Slade and Reynolds createdSalad Daysto be a summer romp – uncomplicated, comic and camp, and this production delivers all of this tremendously well.
For a start – production values are top-notch. It looks fantastic. Mike Lees (Design) and Tim Deiling (Lighting Design) have created a set that bursts with colour, and costumes with more than a dash of Hollywood movie about them. The Quays Theatre’s modest stage is packed out with a large cast that, thanks to quick changes and barely time to catch their breath, seems enormous.
Jessica Croll (Jane) and Mark Anderson (Timothy) make for competent and compelling leads, with Wendi Peters delivering a fun, suitably pantomimic performance as Jane’s mother, but nobody here just gets stuck on the back row of the chorus. Maeve Byrne turns out a beautifully comic performance as the club singer Asphynxia. Nathan Elwick plays policeman Boot with all the physical moves of a silent movie actor. Callum Evans as the mime/clown Troppo (yes…a mime – and this isn’t even the most unlikely character to pop up in this musical) just adds to the dream-like nature of it all with his balletic moves and acrobatics.
Strong multi-skilled performances all round – but it’s really when the whole cast are blasting out catchy numbers that Salad Days really hits its mark. They are universally great dancers and Joanne McShane’s choreography is brilliantly contemporary whilst still conjuring up the 1950s. All the dance sequences – from duets to chorus lines – are tight and full of energy, aligning wonderfully with Julian Slade’s simple, bouncy musical score. Lots of the songs repeat, so even if you don’t know them when you take your seat, you’ll come out humming them at the end.
Salad Days is a couple of hours of wonderfully mindless fluff. It bursts with joy.
Runs until 29 September 2018 | Image: