Writers: Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan from the screenplay by Ronald Cass and Peter Myers
Director: Racky Plews
Reviewer: James Garrington
Everyone who was brought up during the 1960s will surely be familiar with Summer Holiday. The red London bus trundling its way across Europe, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, and full of songs that everyone knew and loved, all of this reflected the mood of the period and the dream of escaping a cold grey Britain for adventures in sunnier climes.
The film was adapted for the stage in 1996, and now the red London bus is busy trundling around the UK on tour, and like the movie, it’s full of the classic songs that you’d expect to find. Four mechanics, too broke to take the holiday of their dreams, kit out a London bus and head off for the Riviera. On the way, they pick up a female singing group whose car has broken down, and a pop starlet who has run away disguised as a young boy, desperate to escape from her fame-seeking mother. Four guys and four girls thrown together in – for 1963 at least – exotic locations, it’s all terribly twee, uncontroversial and predictable.
Times move on and Summer Holiday feels somewhat dated now, with a weak script and two-dimensional characters. Director and choreographer Racky Plews has created a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously with some deliberately hammy and unsubtle acting and stereotyped characters – complete with very dodgy costumes and accents for the French and Italians in the story. Instead, it’s been turned into what’s almost a dance show, with some very energetic choreography – at times reminiscent of West Side Story in style, and all delivered cleanly and slickly.
Leading our group of mechanics is Ray Quinn as Don, the rôle played by Cliff Richard in the original film. In a show with so much focus on the music, it’s all about his voice and Quinn delivers his songs very well – he has a different style to Cliff Richard, which adds an interesting and very pleasant dimension to his vocals and which makes him extremely listenable. He can dance too and looks completely at home among the dancing cast on the stage. Quinn is ably supported by the rest of his crew, with Billy Roberts (Steve), Joe Goldie (Edwin) and Rory Maguire (Cyril) all singing and moving well.
Opposite Quinn is Sophie Matthew as Barbara, the runaway pop star. Matthew doesn’t actually get that much to sing by comparison, but she makes the most of what she has and delivers the vocals well. The remainder of the troupe on the bus is a girl group comprising Alice Baker (Alma), Gabby Antrobus (Mimsie) and Laura May Benson (Angie) who sing and dance extremely well together and individually. Pursuing them across Europe is Barbara’s mother Stella, slightly underplayed by Taryn Sudding – sadly with only one number, which is a shame, as she has a good voice. Alongside her is Jerry, Barbara’s agent who joins in the chase, and Bobby Crush seems to revel in the role, happily sending himself up in the process.
In the end, the thing that’s most memorable about this production is the dancing and choreography, Summer Holiday is undoubtedly a very happy show which had the Press Night audience on its feet and joining in the singout at the end. It’s unchallenging and easy-going escapist entertainment, and if you’re feeling nostalgic for the 1960s – or are a fan of the music of the period and enjoy dancing – this will be right up your street.
Runs Until 16 June 2018 | Image: Contributed