Writers and Directors: Sam Cochrane and Chris Baker
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
With Kinky Bootshobbling out of the West End last year, there is a shoe-shaped hole in London’s musical theatre scene, but if your footwear develops a fault you just need to take them in for repair. Sam Cochrane and Chris Baker’s Edinburgh show Timpson: The Musical is the origins story you didn’t know you needed, one that celebrates the tiny stores that cater to all your trophy-engraving emergencies.
Set in Victorian London, two rival businesses exist on the same street – the Montashoe cobblers and the Keypulet tiny sawmakers. Born to single parents and with a mutual love of invention, Monty Montashoe and Keeleigh Keypulet fall in love, but with both families against the match the pair are forced apart. Only the upcoming Invention Convention will showcase their ideas and ensure a national franchise is born.
This zany 110-minute musical is one of those completely leftfield ideas that somehow justifies its own existence with buckets of cheeky charm. It revels in its lack of polish, drawing attention to the thrown-together production values in which waving a shiny blue scarf doubles for the Thames and an upturned crate becomes the lectern at a major scientific event. Yet, it all works thanks to the tongue-in-cheek conviction of the actors and their delight in the material.
10 brand new songs, with lyrics by Tom Slade and Theo Caplan, tell a madcap story of business acumen and family dramas while providing a very weird texture of London life including a Music Hall number devoted to two fishermen with inexplicable West Country accents, and a song of empowerment for the motherless Keeleigh Breaking Down the Doors as she sets out to save her family from ruin. All of this supported by some very funny choreography drawing on musical influences as diverse as Bob Fosse and Mary Poppins that are a constant highlight.
Cochrane and Baker’s trick is to keep the audience on their toes with a couple of plot twists that steer the show away from easy cliché while peppering the panto-like text with plenty of meta theatre references including a nicely staged scene in which Sabrina Messer breaks the fourth wall to complain to the lighting booth that Keeleigh’s contractual solo is being stolen by Cochrane’s bonneted Betty.
As a co-creator Cochrane, along with performer Alex Prescot, keeps some of the best bits for himself, sometimes at the expense of the other characters, so while there is some amusing audience interaction these extended scenarios mean that James Stirling’s Master Keypulet and Rachael Chomer as Lady Montashoe are barely more than sketches with little time to delve into their parental relationships or the reason for the enmity.
Madeleine Gray as Monty and Messer as Keeleigh are full of personality that keeps the audience invested while belting out the musical numbers with ease, building up to the crucial finale number, an entertaining hymn to the friendly store we know and love. Maybe Cochrane and Baker have hit upon a fantastic franchise opportunity of their own, sharing the story of our shops – the decline of Woolworths, the refinancing of HMV or supermarket chain wars. Timpson: The Musical may be completely daft and revels in every second, but perhaps we’ll see High Street: The Musical before too long.
Runs until 9 March 2019 | Image: Ben Kin Photography