Timpson the Musical – Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

Book, Lyrics and Directors: Sam Cochrane and Chris Baker

Music: Theo Caplan and Tom Slade

Reviewer: Tim Harding

Are you a Montashoe or a Keypulet? That is the amusing question posed by the portrait of William Timpson, founder of the eponymous High Street retailer, at the start of this 110 minute romp through Victorian London. Imagine Tesco the Panto! written by the Zucker brothers and Tim Minchin and you’ve got an idea for the kind of charmingly zany but beautifully crafted evening of entertainment on offer.

Gigglemug Theatre’s inaugural production, which was first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, tells the delightfully improbable tale of how one shop came to be both a cobblers and a maker of tiny little saws! (See the show; it will make sense!) When young Monty Montashoe, who has fallen out of love with his family’s business, and Keeleigh Keypulet meet and “feel a tingle” for each other, they plot to run away together. Only things don’t go according to plan. In a show that celebrates Invention, including the invention of the lock, the Lilo and sliced bread, all you know is that you really don’t know what is going to happen next.

The audience is invited to enter into the spirit of the evening from the moment they enter the theatre. Be warned – there is compulsory audience participation. But it was all handled with skill, warmth, and tongues firmly in cheeks particularly by Sam Cochrane and Alex Prescot as the show’s narrators and wearers of many many hats.

Cochrane and Baker’s script runs at a breakneck speed and gives us star-crossed would-be lovers, conniving servants, gay fishermen, long-lost couples reunited, and sliced bread. Sabrina Messer and Madeleine Gray as Keeleigh and Monty are clearly having great fun as the central couple, Messer, in particular, displaying a fine voice throughout the evening. Their love-at-first-sight routine appears to have been choreographed by either Pina Bausch or Madonna at her least subtle and has the audience roaring with laughter. Gray’s music hall routine with two gay fishermen is another highlight.

Exemplary support comes from Susan Harrison and James Stirling as the overbearing parents, Stirling particularly revelling in his apparent rôle as the moustache-twisting villain of the peace.

The score shows great wit and invention throughout, running a whole gamut of musical styles from music hall to funk, all supported by Lewis Bell’s excellent Timpson Trio.

There’s a lot going on here, normally very fast, but the focus of the cast throughout is superb. It takes a lot of care and effort to make a show look deliberately thrown together. The actors are all comfortable stepping in and out of character and joking with the audience, and the audience is always in on the joke; it never wears thin. Gigglemug has delivered an evening of constant madcap fun that is both completely ridiculous and totally charming. Bravo!

Runs Until 6 April 2019 | Image: Ben Kin Photography

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Madcap fun

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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