DramaMusicalReviewSouth West

Summer Holiday – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Writer: Adapted by Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan from Ronald Cass and Peter Myers’ original screenplay

Director: Racky Plews (also choreographer)

Reviewer: Kelyn Luther

Starring: Ray Quinn, Bobby Crush

Based on the British holiday classic Summer Holiday, this stage adaptation crams even more of Cliff’s classic tunes into the film’s rather odd plot. A group of young mechanics who are strapped for cash do up a double-decker London bus (a set piece which rivals the helicopter in Miss Saigon). And, if they can make it to the South of France, London Transport might allow them to turn it into a hotel business. Think young mechanics meet tuneful girl group meet young pop star on the run and romance ensues.

Like the film, the stage production opens with the weakest song, Seven Days to A Holiday, but once we’re out of the drab London café and off on the shiny red double-decker bus across Europe, the show gets moving, as do the cast. There’s some fabulously fun choreography on songs like Do You Wanna Dance? performed with boundless energy by everyone. 

Ray Quinn has the tough job of taking the role of Don, played in the original by Cliff Richard. If the original film was more of a Cliff Richard vehicle, this feels more like an ensemble piece. Quinn can’t quite nail Cliff’s charm and his chipper British accent sounds more like an impression of someone. Nevertheless, he is well cast to sing the pop hits, doing a particularly good job with Bachelor Boy and The Next Time. Behind the wholesome performance is an anachronistic knowingness, but this does not undermine the enjoyment of the audience or the swinging sixties vibe.

Of the rest of the quartet, Steve (Billy Roberts) stands out the most. His singing on I Could Easily Fall in Love with You has the tone of a sixties crooner like Matt Monro. The girl group are not given much in the way of characterisation apart from giggliness but this is true to the film. Their many costume changes leave you envious of sixties fashion.

The portrayal of different nationalities is the simple stereotypes- the Swiss policemen sound like something from ‘Allo ‘Allo – but this is an unsophisticated old-fashioned comedy, and that’s not a bad thing. You get the summer silliness and fun of the original film and the performers revel in its ridiculousness, such as chanteuse Barbara Winters (Sophie Matthew) being able to disguise herself as a fourteen-year-old boy.

The goat-throwing is the sheer height of comic ridiculousness and outside of the musical numbers, it’s an unexpected highlight.

You don’t need to be part of the cult of Cliff to enjoy this, as the infectious pop tunes leave you unable to resist tapping your toes. And yes, you do get to sing Summer Holiday in the bows.

Runs until 30 June 2018, then touring | Image: Contributed

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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