The Quentin Dentin Show – Tristan Bates Theatre, London

Music and Lyrics: Henry Carpenter
Book: Henry Carpenter and Tom Crowley
Director: Adam Lenson
Reviewer: Stephen Bates

In the digital age, the need for self-help manuals could be passing. Who needs them when all the required help can be delivered in the form of robots, direct to your living room by means of fibre-optics? Here we have a futuristic rock musical that expands on this very weird theory.

tell-us-block_editedKeith and Nat are a witless couple, stuck in a rut and going nowhere. Mysteriously, they find a magic mike lying next to their retro radio, sing into it and, through the radio, appears Quentin Dentin, an android on a mission to market a life enhancement programme consisting of tests, tutorials and lobotomy pills that target areas of the brain and rot them “like a tooth in Coca Cola”. Who could resist? Quentin, a three-dimensional version of a shopping channel host, is controlled by an unseen voice who incentivises him to get signatures on contracts by promising elevation to gold status, which appears to be a sort of robot Heaven.

Resplendent in an all-white suit and golden shoes, Luke Lane’s irksome Quentin is the television host from Hell. A fixed, beaming non-smile characterises a “replicated life form” that is superficial, supercilious and vainglorious. Oh for the chance to go on stage during scene one and confiscate his batteries. With his two manic robot friends (Freya Tilly and Lottie-Daisy Francis), he finds easy prey in the form of meek Keith (Max Panks), an unpublished novelist, and frustrated Nat (Shauna Riley), an assistant at a pharmacy.

It is not easy to warm to a show whose only protagonists are three robots and the world’s most boring couple and the book by Henry Carpenter and Tom Crowley struggles to hold interest between songs. However, Carpenter’s catchy tunes and smart lyrics give director Adam Lanson and choreographer Caldonia Walton the opportunity to inject life with imaginative staging. A three-piece band, styled as robots, play keyboard, guitar and drums, giving the songs a rock feel.

Carpenter himself, playing keys, leads the vocals for a rousing finale, the Beatles-ish All Together Now.

The show is not short of energy and sarcastic humour, but the critical missing ingredient is charm and, without it, a very thin idea feels as if it has been stretched beyond reasonable limits.

Runs until 29 July 2017 | Image: Michaela Bodlovic

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