Liz Coggins reviews West Yorkshire Playhouse’s latest musical offering
When one of Yorkshire’s most famous sons turns 80 it’s time for a celebration. And that’s exactly what’s happening at West Yorkshire Playhouse as Alan Bennett reaches that landmark age.
With plays and even an audience with Bennett, the ultimate offering has to be the musical Betty Blue Eyes. First performed in 2011 it’s the first performance of George Stiles and Anthony Drew’s musical outside London. And the Bennett connection? The script by Ron Cowen and Danielle Lipman is adapted from Bennett’s screen play for his 1984 film A Private Function.
The play takes place at a time when Britain was last experiencing austerity on a national scale and it also explores the dark shadow that fell over the nation as a consequence of the Second World War and the way that people tried to carry on their lives despite the loss and damage they have suffered.
Betty Blue eyes captures the mood of that time to a “t”with some great song and dance sequences and tunes that you will be humming as you leave the theatre and all through next week.
Daniel Bucktrout’s production is fast moving, seamless but above all pure nostalgic vintage theatre. There’s some superb choreography, I particularly loved the jive scene, by Andrew Wright and musical director Richard Reeday strikes just the right balance with his orchestrations.
As the shy chiropodist Gilbert, Haydn Oakley, who has a slight look of the young Bennett, is convincing. Extremely talented he captures the comedy and pathos of the role beautifully in complete contrast to his ambitious, social climbing, forceful wife, Joyce beautifully portrayed by Amy Booth-Steele.
Betty Blue Eyes is a high energy show with an amazing and talented cast that deal beautifully with their characterizations and are excel in their numerous supporting and cameo roles. In fact their performances can only be described as pure gold.
This show according to James Brining, Artistic Director of WYP is a “Yorkshire story that has come back to its spiritual home.”
So even if you were not born in Gods Own County you should make an effort to pop along to the WYP to see this great production and pay homage to one of Yorkshire’s most talented sons Alan Bennett.
Betty Blue Eyes run until July 5. Box Office: 0113 213 7700. or wyp.org.uk