Writer: Mark Haddigan
Director & Choreographer: Racky Plews
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
We all know the song, and love it or hate it, we can all at least sing that one single verse. Sir Cliff Richards’ (and The Shadows’) 1963 triumph Summer Holiday – taken from the titular film, is still a British classic. The musical, adapted from the film, sees four London bus mechanics borrow a double-decker pillar red London bus to travel to the South of France when they encounter what else? But girls.
In true British fashion, the outlook is rather bleak. Our opening is a stripped bare set, with some awkward humour accompanied by dodgy vocals. When one thinks Summer Holiday, usually the thought is lurid colours, supplemented with overstretched grins. Just as the drizzle seems inevitable for the following two hours, Ray Quinn struts onto the stage. Embodying Don, the role in which Cliff Richard hammered that titular song into our minds, Quinn slips into those off-tan trousers with ease. From the instant Don arrives, Quinn very much carries the production. Not entirely single-handed, but enough to be noticeable. His charisma is natural, neither slick nor forced. He brims with everything that epitomises Blighty, chipper, polite and most likely with tea in his veins.
It is here too where Summer Holiday‘s real ability to connect with the audience is located – its music. Whilst, not every song hits the mark, some with awkward lyrical deliveries, any of Quinn’s numbers strike it out of the theatre. Sophie Matthew too, as Barbara, is an adept performer balancing talented vocals with excellent movement. The iconic numbers; The Young Ones, Bachelor Boy and yes, Summer Holiday, all deliver that unique ability to surrender yourself over to happiness and briefly forget reality. The finale, whilst overblown, has the audience on its feet for one last hurrah.
Often, we are spoiled with rich, overarching narratives with deep complex characters. Productions such as Summer Holiday know they will never compete with this, so it’s not in their interest to do so. Development ranges from the non-existent to the clichéd. Which is a real shame, given performers such as Taryn Sudding and Alice Barker inject their characters with so much given the cut-out script? In fact, our entire female cast evidently has so much more brimming inside of them, scenes in which the trio of girls perform as Doe-Ray-Me solidify the fact they are phenomenal performers sadly kept down by such mediocre characters.
Tread carefully the line of ‘old fashioned’ fun, for you risk plunging into the out-dated. A pitfall Summer Holiday dips its toes in a little too often. Particularly as the black satin clad girls dance around during Steve’s dream sequence. Not everything must have a message or stance tacked on, but perhaps a touch more class could be offered. Combating this though is Bobby Crush and breakout ensemble performer William Beckerleg. Crush, known for his huge library of television work brings old-fashioned Carry-On style humour to the production. Beckerleg however, delivers not simply talented vocals and choreography but an almost Mel Brooks style performance as various border-control agents.
The thing with shows such as Summer Holiday is that they’re two-dimensional, tacky, cheesy and wholesome, and we despise that we still enjoy them so much. Painting similar shades to the British summertime, Summer Holiday is all-over the place. Often just a fair breeze, at times torrentially awkward and dour, but with glimpses of bursting sunshine allowing us to enjoy the dreamscape away from reality. So, grab your case, board that big red bus but remember to pack an umbrella.
Runs until 23 June 2018 | Image: Contributed