by PAUL BOYD
GAY TIMES ★★★★
“ New musicals are becoming ever the fashion in London and with this comes the opportunity to explore the unknown and reach out into new worlds that yet to be tried and Molly Wobbly does exactly that. In the village of Little Happening where its residents sit, wait and wait a little more for something exciting to happen are suddenly thrown into turmoil when a new resident moves into the village factory and allows three female to try a small drink full of magic. The show then follows the lives of these three different women and their husbands fight to reclaim their wives.
Under the creation of Paul Boyd, who leads the direction, music, lyrics and even the book, he gives the piece a continual design and narrative throughout. The show follows strict creative choices and Boyd’s leadership with the piece allows for the continuity to charm throughout. Each of his creative decisions has clearly been thought and tested before a decision has been made. Visually, in what has to be London’s most intimate theatres, you become submerged in a piece of theatre that is at times uncomfortably close.
Ruth (Stephanie Fearon), Jemma (Cassie Compton), Margaret (Jane Milligan) lead as warm and sensitive women with each exquisite vocal talent that fall for the towns new visitor. With Molly Wobbly holding a secret, the girls are each tricked into improving their breasts and impress this little town. However, their husbands Jake (Conleth Kane), Robbie (Christopher Finn) and Malcolm (Ashley Knight) are less than pleased. Each with their own short narrative, you find sympathy with these men of tradition yet fight for their right to claim back their wives.
They are joined by Russell Morton as new resident Ithanku. Awkward, unlikeable and the cause of all problems in Little Happening, he fits the role of both villain and underdog well. Vocally rich and driven by his wonderful characterisation, he’s a great addition to the piece however you would at start expect him to lead but is overseen by the shows three leading females.
With original music, bold scenic designs and audience interactions throughout, the shows storyline is overshadowed by this spooky world. Jane Milligan as Margaret unexpectedly gets the shows biggest crowd pleaser with touching song Designed by Margaret Brown in act two. Supported by Milligan’s exquisite voice, the song allows for a grasp of realness in an all but pretend world. The show, as musically enjoyable as it is, would land better with an expansion on songs such as this.
And of course, what show of this stature could be complete without a drag queen in giant angel wings singing about having sex (with the crudest of language) in the style of a Broadway diva. You could be fooled to thing at one point it is actually a female singing thus is the talent of Alan Richardson.
Molly Wobbly is fresh and exciting but also daring. It defies the objections that many would fall at and pushes the boundaries of theatre even further. It may rely on the humour of its audience and want of rebellion against the serious sides of theatre but if you’re looking for something new, exciting and a little bit naughty, know exactly where to go. Here! ”
WEST END WILMA ★★★★
“ Walking into the theatre, I was greeted by the selfie-taking, non-stop texting usher who told me “We had a small fire earlier and that’s why there’s a bit of smoke. Everything should be good … but if your chair breaks please don’t sue us.”
Don’t worry – he’s apart of the show.
When the lights went down, an old cinematic countdown began on the screen and I began to hesitate if I was seeing a theatre production or a movie. But alas, this great intro included in-the-flesh actors, and the show began.
The story takes place in the small town of Little Happening, when a strange and unknown neighbor moves into an old abandoned church. This unknown, green-haired, creepy little fellow makes a few visits to some of the women, only to provide a new outlook to life and what it could be. The clocks stop, and everything is turned upside down when this anonymous man arrives with his plans create a factory that is set out to ‘lift’ the spirits of the folks in town.
The script is loaded with puns, one-liners, and euphemisms, as well as an array of craziness throughout the show – a few bare bums, an angel in drag, and a lot of chest are just a few things you’ll be seeing during your evening with Molly Wobbly.
It was a stellar cast with plenty of West End names and their voices only stood by their great careers. Cassie Compton, Stephanie Fearon, and Jane Milligan play the women of the town, and each play their role with fantastic character. The ladies’ husbands, played by Conleth Kane, Christopher Finn, and Ashley Knight, are a great trio that deserves credit for most of the laughs with their hysterical group numbers.
Alan Richardson and Russell Morton, though, are the ones to watch; Alan shows true skill in role-change, as he plays multiple different characters from pre-show until curtain down, and Russell creeps around the stage with a great presence while also creating a connection with the audience.
Overall, it was a fantastic night from start to finish. The show was weird and creepy, while also being hilarious and uplifting, and not many shows are known to be able to accomplish this. The tear-induced laughs from the crowd that took over the tiny theatre throughout the entire production gave the message that there was no more proof needed that the evening was enjoyed by all in attendance ”
PLAYS TO SEE ★★★★★
“ If you haven’t seen Molly Wobbly yet you really should get up off the sofa and go and book a ticket now as, criminally, it’s due to close on 14th March. If there was any justice in the world, Martin Witts and Lesley Ackland, the insightful producers who brought this wonderfully and crazily camp Belfast and Edinburgh-festival-hit show to London, would keep it running and allow it to become the cult success that I know it has the capacity to be.
That isn’t to say that Molly Wobbly is aimed at prim twenty-something English graduates – who seem to have been the only people sent to review it! This is an adult show for people who know their way around the world, and who will recognise the homage’s paid in the direction and score. For the show creates and then inhabits a wonderfully surreal hinterland all its own, somewhere between The League of Gentlemen, and Victoria Wood. This is a show with which you can feel at home, and to which you will want to return.
The plot is relatively simple – though the execution is gloriously bizarre. Using the framing device that we (the audience) are actually in the Little Happening Uniplex, about to see a film, the show draws on the imagery of the movies to set the scene and, in a wonderfully ostentatious piece of theatrics, gets you all the way from central Europe to the town of Little Happening, which appears to be somewhere in the English Midlands, where there are three shops on Mammary Lane; a hairdressers, a horologist, and a boutique offering an alteration service.
Each shop is run by a husband and wife couple. Everything seems ‘normal’ but then, what is ‘normal’, as each of the couples has their own dark secret which we are, through the medium of song and dance, about to discover…as a bizarrely dressed green-haired stranger, Ithanku (the peculiarly weird and angular Russell Morton) arrives in town. Jemma and Jake in the hairdressers have known each other from school.
Jemma (played with a winning sweetness by Cassie Compton) has unruly bright red hair, glasses, and a husband, Jake (played so marvellously over the top by Conleth Kane that he only has to make an entrance and have the audience in stitches) who just may not be the red-blooded heterosexual she believes and hopes him to be.
Ruth and Robbie, the horologist (clockmaker) are perhaps the most easily recognisable pair. Ruth (played with a delightful innocence by Stephanie Fearon) wants to have an orgasm, while Robbie (the toughest, roughest, trucker of a clock maker you’re ever likely to see in Christopher Finn) doesn’t really understand women, and thinks she should make do with a dishwasher…
Margaret and Malcolm, the long-married and long-suffering most ‘senior’ couple have settled into a comfortable life of inadequate decline. Margaret (the wonderfully stentorian, yet majestically sexy Jane Milligan) had dreams of being a designer, but has had to settle instead for being a member of a trade body, the acronym of which I’m afraid I’m not allowed to use in this review… her husband, town councillor Malcolm (the impressively downtrodden Ashley Knight) has become his wife’s life work.
More than that in terms of plotting I really don’t want to relate. Go with the flow would be the best suggestion I could give. However I would add that there are other parts played by members of the cast, most notably Alan Richardson whose range and versatility take him from disinterested cinema usher, through truly scary Catholic nun, to the outrageous Kitten who has what comes nearest to being the ‘eleven o’clock number’ and is so unspeakably and yet brilliantly filthy that even I blushed at some of the things the poor man was asked to sing.
Like I said, this is not a show for prim twenty-something English graduates…
It’s always difficult when someone from out of town asks you what they should go and see. When it was running I always used to point people in the direction of Avenue Q. Until the 14th of March it’s a no-brainer. Molly Wobbly ”
“ All hail to Paul Boyd who has delivered a hilarious show to the Leicester Square Studio which is justly famous for the hilarity of its productions. But this play has an interesting plot and some really great songs with hummable tunes and witty lyrics. They truly deserve a bigger audience.
It is set in a north country village of ‘Little Happening’. Everybody there is bored with their existences. We meet three couples whose lives are highly unsatisfactory.
Maggie feels undervalued. She runs a business repairing and cleaning clothes but has ambition to be a dress designer. She is the wife of the ex mayor Malcolm (Ashley Knight) a lazy and ineffectual politician. She takes out her frustration by trying to organise the whole village and by bullying her husband. Maggie is played by Jane Milligan, daughter of Spike and has a heritage of fun behind her. Her solo ‘Designed by Margaret Brown’ is beautifully placed.
Ruth, played by the lovely Stephanie Fearon is blonde and sexy. She is currently married to Robbie (Christopher Finn) but in the past has been the wife of a Methodist Minister. She has one of the best and funniest songs in the show about her indiscretion ‘When I shouted Fuck in the Manse’ set to a charming Viennese waltz rhythm. She fancies having a breast enlargement ‘If I’d thought you wanted bigger tits I wouldn’t have bought you a dish washer’ says Robbie.
The third couple are Jemma and Jake. Cassie Compton as Jemma is a plain girl in a weird wig and big glasses. She longs to have a make-over and turn into someone beautiful. Jake, played by the gorgeous Conleth Kane, is a hairdresser who wears short shorts and fishnet tights. The problem in her life is not difficult to work out.
So life at Little Happening lives up to its name until a stranger arrives played by Russell Morton. This stranger is a wizard and a hypnotist. He gets in touch with each of the girls in turn and treats them to a green cocktail in a martini glass – a potion that has an alarming effect on their appearances. All great fun.
It is so great to see a show with such a strong female comedy cast leading the story. You will have a good time in spite of everything ”
“ If the 1970s had been as permissive, The Rocky Horror Show may have been like this. Indeed, Rocky’s Christopher Malcolm played a role in Molly Wobbly’s development (double entendre intended), and the influences are detectable.
“Cult” shows like these always have long development periods of sporadic performances in small venues, collecting re-writes and tiny, often late teen / early twenties vociferous fanbases. Few make the leap to more prestigious addresses. This did, but is it ready? Pretty much, yes.
This “bawdy but hilariously nice” romp is rarely less than inventive, mostly camp, often naughty and occasionally just jaw-droppingly filthy... yet for the most part lovably so.
Within the framework of a dilapidated cinema (the Leicester Square Lounge neatly transformed by Phil Lawson and John Bradley – and complete with dodgy usher) Ithanku (played with wonderful physicality and vocal ingenuity by Russell Morton) is a sinisterly friendly (and mildly radioactive) misfit with hypnotic powers and a potion with the power to change lives.
Arriving in Little Happening, he calls on the services of shop-keeping partnerships Margaret and Malcolm (Jane Milligan and Ashley Knight), Ruth and Robbie (Stephanie Fearon and Christopher Finn) and Jemma and Jake (Cassie Compton and Conleth Kane).
Each gets a chance to shine. Milligan’s frustrated early-middle-aged hopes reduced to a certificate she can’t mention, signed by Fanny Adams (neat touch), Knight the quintessential inattentive-to-her-needs local councillor. Their on stage experience sparkles as both bring terrific depth to the unhappy partnership.
Fearon and Finn bring glamour and "down to earth" respectively. A beautiful, if underused voice, Fearon is Rocky’s Janet, Grease’s Frenchy (uncanny resemblance) and Legally Blonde’s Elle with added sexual frustration. Finn too is well used as the down-to-earth anchor, against whom all other antics can be measured. He also gets one of the best lines, concerning a dishwasher.
Compton and Kane have the trickiest roles. Compton in particular as she moves between two characters – her wig and first half flashback one of the funniest sequences in the show. Kane is simply “not out” and proud. His Riverdance with a nun is probably worth the price of a ticket alone.
Holding things together with manic energy is Alan Richardson. Principally Kitten – Ithanku’s assistant, he serves well as nun, angel and gets probably the most obscene (but honest) number ever written about one-night-stands.
If the formula can be perfected, this could potentially be added to the nation’s entertainment supply, raising its happiness forever ”
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
“ Take a dash of horror movie, stir in some comic book, a bit of a nip-and-tuck documentary, some neighbourhood soap and some retail-set sitcom; add catchy tunes and caustically crude rhyming lyrics then whirl them around in Graham Norton’s cocktail shaker and - if you’re lucky - you might end up with something like Molly Wobbly.
First aired in a much shorter version at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre four years ago, it is a perfect match for Leicester Square Theatre’s slightly louche lounge. Its original longer title of Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory identifies its focus - it is mostly set in Little Happening’s Mammary Lane - but this isn’t a show for the dirty old men mackintosh brigade. Paul Boyd’s double entendres may be filthy, but they are filthy funny if you are quick enough to catch them.
A scowling, gum-chewing, bossy usher/ette (could be either) greets you with whatever the opposite is to a welcome to take your place in front of a movie screen.
1940s-style titles establish an opening in the village of Fukçake, somewhere in the Balkans, whence an arrow shows a journey to England before a mix to live action and the appearance of Russell Morton’s strange stooping, green-haired angular Ithanku. A Belfast reviewer described him as like Kenneth Williams playing Gollum - and I’d add a touch of Nosferatu, especially in a short shadow sequence, though he claims his mission is to make people happy and rundown Little Happening prosperous.
Plot isn’t really the point in this piece but there is one. When Ithanku is around, it seems that clocks stop and the women all start wanting boob jobs and the deserted old church has a new owner who has opened the Molly Wobbly Tit Factory.
It centres on three dysfunctional couples. There is none-too-bright former Mayor Malcolm (Ashley Knight) and his former dress designer wife Margaret (Jane Milligan). She now runs the haberdasher and is a member of CLIT, the City League of Inspirational Tailors: a count-ry member she reiterates (it is that kind of humour).
Then there is Robbie (Christopher Finn), former Presbyterian minister, now running a clock repair shop, married to Ruth (Stephanie Fearon), blonde and twinkly, who as they sing in one number “shouted fuck in the manse” and so upset his congregation.
Also along Mammary Lane are hairdresser Jake (Conleth Kane) and his bespectacled wife Jemma (Cassie Compton) with her hair in big red bunches.
It’s a framework on which to fix a succession of comically camp numbers that are lively and tuneful with echoes of all sorts from Abba to music hall patter song. With a cast as accomplished in putting it over, with excellent voices and fast feet for Sarah Johnston’s choreography, this is a show that’s a right risqué romp (and risqué is putting it mildly). Kane’s Jake, cutely camp, blonde haired and bearded, full of knowing looks and edgy awareness exactly exemplifies the bold, blatant style of Boyd’s direction.
You could call this a musical for heteros with a gay sensibility with its ladies in glittering lingerie - there is one number that celebrates the many names for mammaries - but there’s also a divine drag diva in Alan Richardson’s Kitten. He appears first as a white winged angel dressed in rhinestoned brocade and later has a number that’s decidedly dirty about a gay one-night stand that is definitely not for the squeamish.
Glitzy costumes for the women (more mundane for the men) and wild wigs give a cartoon clarity, but these actors create strong personalities and there are real problems of partnership behind this trio of relationships; it’s not all nonsense.
It’s either fantastic fun or you’ll hate it. Anyone who shares Boyd’s sense of humour, especially if still in rebellion against Christian Brothers or convent school, will love it ”
“ Born and bred in Belfast and a hit in Edinburgh, Paul Boyd’s Molly Wobbly is a raucous, irreverent musical that’s rude and laugh-out-loud funny. Clearly influenced by The Rocky Horror Show, music hall and Carry On films, yet camper than any of these, Molly Wobbly proudly stands out as good, clean, smutty fun.
The unhappy marriages of the residents of Mammary Street are changed after a radioactive Romanian plastic surgeon moves into their town of Little Happening. Mr Ithanku, performed with style by Russell Morton, hears the dreams of three couples - but is obsessed with his own agenda of the ultimate makeover. There are hot flushes, magic potions and murderous intentions - beauty comes at a price.
The three women bravely abandoning their blouses are splendid, with Jane Milligan having the most to, ahem, offer. Among the husbands, Conleth Kane stands out as he’s barely able to move (or should that be mince?) without getting a laugh. And there’s a great performance from Alan Richardson, who milks his unrelentingly filthy number about one-night stands, along with a small walk-on as the best dancing nun I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen plenty.
What Molly Wobbly really needs, and deserves, is a bigger venue. Of course it’s great to see a show in intimate surroundings, but the impressive projections really suffer, and I’d love to hear the score performed live. Molly Wobbly is just as strong as several recent big West End offerings and has a lot more guts – it should be massive ”
“ The laughter begins as we enter the tiny theatre and are told that there was a fire in the building last night, there may be a slight whiff of smoke and you know, not to sue them if you start to feel unwell. Everyone was told this upon entering and the laughs lasted throughout the show. The acclaimed musical comedy by Paul Boyd features three desperate women who earn their living as shopkeepers in a place called Mammary Lane, in Little Happening, but they feel trapped. Their love lifes [sic] and jobs make them feel unsatisfied and all in all, life could been better, but their humour shines throughout. They are down on their luck, but not down on their spirit. Someone arrives in their little town: Molly Wobbly, was this what the ladies needed? A half-joker, half rocky-horror type man of mystery appears (both in looks and demeanor) named Ithanku and their journeys begin to change, probably for the better. Ithanku gives a splendid performance, which is much enjoyed.
Molly Wobbly’s strength lies in the supremely talented cast, who have been nominated for several high profile awards as individuals. The show also features Spike Milligan’s daughter - Jane Milligan. Russell Morton as Ithanku is an original cast member of Molly Wobbly. Such is his character performance, that he actually comes across as almost a cartoon character, almost unbelievable to be an actual real life human being, who delivers a sublime performance throughout and we loved the way in which he contoured his body as he moved around. Each character have their turn to show their talents off and each one brings such energy and comedic gloss to the show. The singing in the show is truly great and the acting abilities of the cast really makes the production come alive.
There seems to be a very British style campness about the show. The silly feeling you get when you see those end of the pier and tongue-in-cheek postcards at British seaside towns, seems to permeate throughout each scene. It seems that all was missing was a few endless fart jokes. Pillows, baps, fun bags, jugs - you name it, this show has an array of names for breasts, which resulted in an enormous amount of giggling from the men in the room, who were often guffawing like naughty schoolchildren.
The show is currently shown in the small downstairs stage at the Leicester Square theatre. It’s such a small venue for a show with such energy and movement. We think it would work much better in a larger space, where everyone had a clear view of the stage and the written words which appear on the screened curtain. It seems such a shame to cram such a talented cast in to such a small area, with limited space for movement.
The show is very fun and light hearted. We’re not entirely sure what it was all about initially, but we were too busy laughing to take it all in so seriously. The men in the audience certainly seem to enjoy the show more so than the women, probably due to the scantily clad women in the show, which kept the huge grins on their faces! The show is like a night out with your GBF. It almost feels a bit rude not to turn up in a glittery cowboy hat and feather boas. We had a lot of fun watching this little bonkers show, with an awesome cast. You should go and see this show if you need a pick-me up and enjoy very silly humour ”
“ Finally with the support required to push up through more than its fair share of problems, Molly Wobbly thrusts towards us, spilling over with jokes, tunes and double entendres, all squeezed into the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge (until 14 March). Bravo is the fitting response!
In Mammary Lane, the quiet high street of the quiet village of Little Happening, not much happens. Until a stranger arrives whose seemingly irresistible offer of a makeover may be just what the frustrated wives and feeble men need to put a bit of bounce back into their flatlining love lives. But the mysterious man has plans that go well beyond the merely cosmetic ...
It's a curious thing, but writer/director Paul Boyd has managed to fuse lots of elements that remind you a little of something else into another thing that is fresh and fun and just what's needed to kickstart the sap-rising season. The plot has plenty of Stephen King's eerie "Needful Things" about it; the performances nod to some of comedy's most enduring stars; and, as is so often the case, there's a fair bit of good old panto popping up from time to time to chivvy the action along. And, with jukebox musicals a much softer option than delivering this all-new musical, Boyd won't get any criticism from me for such inspirations!
The cast are splendid - right across the board. Conleth Kane's camp hairdresser has more than a touch of Alan Cumming in it and he works very well with Christopher Finn and Ashley Knight as the lacklustre (indeed, lack lust) boys. The girls are wonderful: Jane Milligan and Stephanie Fearon had me recalling Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor in their Carry-On heydays and Cassie Compton trumps even that duo, by channeling the unforgettable Jessica Rabbit! Russell Morton's enigmatic newcomer owes plenty to Riff-Raff, but loses little in the comparison - indeed, the whole show is quite close to Rocky Horror. But why not? It's not a bad example to follow!
For all that good stuff, as ever, the most important things to get right in musical theatre are the songs and these are, without exception, tremendously funny and beautifully sung. Though any one of at least half a dozen would be a standout in many shows, “The Presbyterian Minister's Wife” (including that rarest of things, genuinely funny swearing) and a devastating "One Night Stand" sung by the always marvelous Alan Richardson as a Victoria's Secret Angel with very few secrets to keep, are the best of a very impressive bunch.
Rounding off a show so big it's bursting the buttons of its intimate venue are sensational costumes and a film sequence that gently pisstakes the B-movie horror genre that informs much of the look of the show. Molly Wobbly was once destined for bigger stages and one can see why - and why it may well get there yet ”
“ Molly Wobbly at the Leicester Square Theatre is quite simply one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a long while. That’s a pretty simple summation of this wonderful piece of musical comedy theatre.
Following the opening credits - yes you read that right - we go to a village in Romania whose name I couldn’t possibly mention and meet Mr Ithanku (Russell Morton), a sort of long lean and lanky human troll doll, doing a runner after upsetting the locals. He travels across Europe and finally winds up in an English Town called ‘Little Happening’ a town that almost had a heyday once but missed the boat and is now dying on its concrete feet. In this town there is a street where there are three shops as devoid of customers as an ice cube shop in the Arctic.
There is the haberdashers owned by Malcolm (Ashley Knight) and his domineering wife, Margaret (Jane Milligan). The watch/clock repairers with Robbie (Christopher Finn) and his young, uninhibited wife Ruth (Stephanie Fearon) and finally the hairdressers where the intriguing and possibly ‘confused’ Jake (Conleth Kane) ‘queens’ it over the hot straighteners with his demure Irish Catholic wife Jemma (Cassie Compton). All three ladies have a problem, they are trapped in loveless marriages, their husbands really don’t appreciate or even notice them - for example Robbie can’t understand why Ruth wants him to give her an orgasm, since he gave her a new dishwasher last week. Into the lives of our ladies comes Mr Ithanku who, using hypnosis and a series of flashbacks involving cheerleaders, priests and a formidable Irish nun, helps the ladies work out their problems and get them off their chests, quite literally. Assisted by his angel Kitten (Alan Richardson), Mr Ithanku sets about making their dreams come true while their husbands get together, discuss the strange turn of events in their little town and between them decide on a pretty radical solution. But, as with most things in this story, there is no point in trying to guess what happens next as you will inevitably be completely blindsided by this magically unpredictable production.
Told using a madcap collection of musical numbers, Paul Boyd’s show is a wonderful mix of the instantly recognizable - people unhappy with their lot in life - and the truly outrageous. Some of the musical numbers, for example ‘The Presbyterian Minister’s Wife’ are the reason the letters NSFW were invented, but are truly awesome and have to be heard to be believed. All of the songs are really great - I have just bought the Soundtrack CD - and my own personal favourite was the truly delicious ‘One Night Stand’ which, going by the knowing laughter and huge round of applause at its conclusion, invoked way, way too many memories for many in the audience, including me I’m ashamed/proud to say. The show absolutely sparkles in other respects too. The use of projection is brilliant and feels like a very natural part of the storytelling as does the amount of time the cast spend out and about in the audience – word of advice here, watch out for Kitten’s wings and keep your legs out of the Sister’s way.
The highly talented cast are a nice mixture of ages and definitely seems to be having as wonderful a time as the audience. The ladies in particular really put their heart, soul and certain other parts into their roles, and there was something about the cynical and masterful Margaret that I found really intriguing. There was a definite air repressed librarian (remove the glasses and hair pins then stand back) about her that I loved. All in all, this show manages to be unique whilst at the same time taking a well crafted swipe at so many other shows. From The Witches of Eastwick to The Lion King, there are many familiar references at totally inappropriate times that no matter how bad a day you’ve had, you will be laughing your cotton socks off by the end.
My opening to this review was short and sharp and I’m going to close in the same way. Molly Wobbly is rude, outrageous, shocking, and a show that probably has Mary Whitehouse spinning in her grave - but its awesomely funny and superbly entertaining from it’s start to the end of the final credits ”
EVERYTHING THEATRE ★★★★
“ The original title of the musical, Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, lines the artistic stomachs of theatre goers a bit more than the now truncated Molly Wobbly. You might ask, who’s Molly? Why is she Wobbly? Nevertheless, I think I prefer the less graphic naming, because coming to this show with no expectation of the plot’s twists, turns and tits meant I could enjoy the element of surprise. And surprise this show does!
The location is fantastic: nudged between Chinatown and the unending bustle of Leicester Square in Leicester Place, it feels cool and unpretentious, almost undiscovered – a rarity for such a central venue. Molly Wobbly is presented not on the main stage but downstairs in the groovy Lounge of Leicester Square Theatre, which is a great space for this type of comic musical where the beauty is in the dirty detail. Having visibility of every exaggerated look, every raised eyebrow, every bra strap, and every interaction of the performers was great, and with the room full of people the atmosphere was relaxed and warm.
The plot follows three couples living in the nondescript town of Little Happening, suffering from a cultural and physical inertia. In short they’re all really really bored, and the women are feeling awfully neglected. Desperate for a life-makeover, they find themselves easily manipulated by the creepy charms of a mysterious visitor to the town.
Wonderfully bizarre and toe-tapping musical numbers ensue, all well written and generally very funny. The certificate is most definitely 18, with sexual innuendo galore; I personally enjoyed it, but if that isn’t your cup of tea you might find it just a bit too naughty. If you like The Rocky Horror Show you’ll appreciate what the creators are doing here – the sex is more about style than substance.
The cast and their characters were very watchable, and each in different ways which made for compelling variety. Especially effective was their commitment to the absurd parody of Little Happening and its goings on – silliness is all the more amusing when it’s delivered with sincerity! Singing voices were strong on all counts, and Conleth Kane’s Mariah Carey-esque vocal gymnastics were particularly hilarious. Not a weak link in the chain.
The projection of cinematic opening credits was a nice touch, as it put us all in a jazzy mood for curtain up (I’m speaking collectively for the whole audience, but I just felt jazzy vibes everywhere – we all wanted it). The lighting design was full of movement throughout, appropriately echoing the movement on stage, which kept up the pace. The direction was similarly nimble, and particularly smart on those occasions where the different couples’ activity overlapped – assisted by the neatly arranged musical numbers. I can see Molly Wobbly working well on a UK tour, with bigger lights, and room for even more sparkles and camp dancing.
Though this musical focuses on the infamously boring Little Happening it’s anything but boring. There is a lot happening here, and I’d recommend the musical to anyone who appreciates the joys of uncensored bawdiness, and brightly coloured hairstyles ”
“ Molly Wobbly (or Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory as it was previously known) is a rare creature: a new musical with genuine heart, an original story and an individual voice. Paul Boyd, who is responsible for the book, music, lyrics and even direction has broken free of fashion and produced a show that isn’t based on anything and isn’t stuffed with already popular songs. It demonstrates that the seemingly impossible really is possible.
The story tells of the inhabitants of a town called Little Happening, sat waiting for something to happen. Their world is transformed with the arrival of Ithanku and his magic potion that allows the drinker to be as pretty as they can be; he soon goes to work on the three leading ladies. Predictably, their three husbands meet this with dismay and a wild goose chase ensues, leading everyone to the inevitable happy ending.
The show has echoes of The Rocky Horror Show, not least because of Christopher Malcolm’s creative input; and the cast attack it with the required dynamism. The stand out performance of the evening comes from Alan Richardson as Kitten, largely because he also sings the show’s stand out song: ‘One Night Stand’, a witty and intelligent exploration of that kind of evening. Richardson has a quiet presence compared to the rest of the cast, but has an effortless comic ability that roots him at the centre of the show.
The three central women Jemma (Cassie Compton), Ruth (Stephanie Fearon) and Margaret (Jane Milligan) are all warm creations, brought to life with sensitivity and gusto. They are all equally endearing, but Milligan receives the most opportunities to explore the full range of her character.
Their husbands: Jake (Conleth Kane), Robbie (Christopher Finn) and Malcolm (Ashley Knight) are more caricature than their counterparts.
Tying them all together is Russell Morton as Ithanku; a sinewy, sniveling performance that is perfectly judged, with a voice that fills the small room, but doesn’t overpower it. Morton delivers Boyd’s music as if it were Les Mis and the show reaps the benefits: the rest of the cast joining and matching him.
Boyd’s music deserves to be taken seriously: it’s tuneful and energetic and has some real moments of brilliance.
Molly Wobbly deserves to be seen on a bigger stage. It has already been taken to the hearts of audiences around the country, but this production and cast should provide the stepping stone to recognition it requires. Paul Boyd’s work is the perfect antidote to the unimaginative and tepid big budget musicals that are trying to draw in the crowd that Molly Wobbly deserves ”
THE CURTAIN UP SHOW ★★★★★
“ How refreshing it is to see a new brave musical trying to stamp its feet on the British Musical Theatre scene.
A stranger arrives in town and has a huge major impact on the ladies and men in Little Happening. The cast are equally as strong and committed to their roles, all have amazing voices and great comedic timing.
Molly Wobbly has major potential ... [it] could easy rival The Rocky Horror Show and become a huge global hit ”
FESTIVAL JOURNAL ★★★★
“ This show is every bit as ridiculous as the title suggests it will be — the story follows the three unhappy couples living on Mammary Lane in the town of Little Happening, whose lives are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of a plastic surgeon who resembles the unholy love-child of the Joker from Batman and Willy Wonka.
At face value this seems to be following in the footsteps of the likes of The Rocky Horror Show, but in reality it is beating its own track. Boyd is an exceptionally talented composer and lyricist: you will be singing these songs to yourself later in the day.
The cast are a brilliant set of performers, but special mention must go to Russell Morton for his turn as the demented plastic surgeon – whenever your eyes find him on the stage he is doing something interesting, and often hilarious. The only criticism that can be levied here is that it’s on too early in the day. The subject matter and raucous nature of the show would be better suited to a night-time slot which could provide the atmosphere late afternoon cannot.
Molly Wobbly is undoubtedly one of the better new musicals you will see this year, and hopefully the writer will return with more offerings in the future ”
THREE WEEKS ★★★★★
“ A wonderful amalgamation of all things I love about musical theatre, Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory is a must-see show for this Festival.
With a name like that, you can’t really go wrong, and Paul Boyd’s new musical production certainly does not disappoint. It’s a titivating tale set on Mammary Lane (of course) in the small town of Little Happening, satirises the image obsessed world we live in, and it is staged to perfection.
The small cast was absolutely dazzling and I can’t commend their skill enough; they induced laugh after laugh from the audience. However it’s the fresh, catchy and quirky score that seals the deal; I’m still humming the tunes now! Pure fabulousness, West End please ... ”
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE ★★★★
“ Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory is an outrageous, irreverent and zany adult musical.
Set in the town of Little Happening that is going into decline, a stranger has bought the old church and the lives of the remaining inhabitants is going to change forever.
The opening sequence is reminiscent of the RKO films and we are introduced to three families who live in mammary lane - the significance of the name is revealed later.
There is the camp hairdresser Jake and his wife Jemma who was a convent girl, the Clock repairer Robbie and his sensuous sexy wife Ruth and finally the voluptuous Margaret and her hen pecked husband Malcolm.
The green haired stranger, Ithanku, is a Burtonesque character who creates ‘make-overs’, hypnotising the women and providing them with a magical cocktail potion that helps them realise their dream bodies through cosmetic surgery and empowers them to stand up to their husbands, who also become obsessed with killing their spouses.
In this mystical world, we also meet the erotic Kitten, a gay angel who is Ithanku’s assistant ensuring that everyone tops up their potion.
All the cast give stellar performances and sing well and they obviously relish their characters.
Paul Boyd has written the book, music and lyrics and there are certainly some funny one-liners. The score is rich and the songs catchy and it is camp to the extreme with a very ‘cheeky’ ending; just go to find out ”
BELFAST TELEGRAPH ★★★★
“ You could tell it was going to be a special evening at the Lyric. Several Belfast Come Dine With Me contestants, a 6ft drag queen, and a couple of people who you know from local TV ads were in attendance for this special preview. Last night was a kind of local ‘sleb’ send-off for this giddying glorious show that’s about to ‘do Edinburgh’.
There was a psychedelic comedy bloodbath, even before the opening credits, promising the show in fabulous ’3-DD’. By the time we were invited to take a trip doen Mammary Lane, it was pretty clear we were being led into the murky recesses of Innuendo Alley.
With a grip less firm this could easily have become tiring. But with writer/composer/director Paul Boyd in full-on mode, MWTF is one camp-riot that won’t require a UN peace keeping task force. Well, maybe not ...
A garishly colourful explosion of song, dance, one-liners, double-entendres, cross dressing, very cross dressing, body horror and horrible bodies was acquitted by a note-perfect cast. Imagine a filthy fusion of Rocky Horror and Witches of Eastwick directed by Tim Burton after spending a weekend at John Water’s place, and then forget that and go and see MWTF.
Who could resist such classics as ‘When I Shouted **** In The Manse’ replete with a ‘row-of-tents’ chorus of priests [sic]? In the saucy spirit of the titular Molly Wobbly, this soon-to-be Edinburgh smash scores a reassuringly even four out of five nipples ”
SCOTSGAY MAGAZINE ★★★★
“ Sex sells. So do Tits apparently. So an entire tit factory will surely rival Apples dominance over the free market any day now.
Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory is an impressive spectacle. It sounds pretty fantastic too. The key protagonist already strikes me as a cult character. In fact there are a great many positives I could say about this new musical by Paul Boyd.
There is a good chance this could gain cult status. The performances of each of the cast were superb, their singing voices top notch, their energy and commitment to their roles, fantastic. Orla Gormley in particular was a highlight.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been around for thirty seven years. Perhaps Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory could be the face of the new cult musical for the next 37 years ”
CULTURE NORTHERN IRELAND
“ Paul Boyd's musical comedy is a five-star romp populated with sleazy, strutting grotesques.
Molly Wobbly's Tit Factory is practically criticism-proof. Sure, you can slap glib taglines on it – a Rocky Horror Show for the beauty industry; Carry On Screaming in a Belfast gay bar; Mrs Brown's Boys directed by John Waters – but essentially it's just good, dirty fun for any fan of comedy musical theatre whose brow is stuck to the bottom of their shoe.
I catch Paul Boyd's saucy spectacular as it nears the end of previews at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, ahead of an Edinburgh Festival Fringe run the following week. The high-energy, high-camp production is unlike the usual fare that grimaces its way onto the Northern Ireland stage.
The fact that Molly Wobbly's Tit Factory isn't about the Troubles, makes no mention of the Titanic and doesn't feature a cameo from Terri Hooley would be enough to warrant a glowing review. But when you consider it's clever, funny and sharply executed, you're looking at five stars – pink, glittery stars at that.
The show takes place in a backwoods called Little Happening, where a mysterious stranger has moved into a derelict church, converting it to the titular factory, with a plan to enrich the townsfolk's dreary lives through the media of song, dance and extreme plastic surgery. Soon, the newcomer's malevolent influence takes hold over the buttoned-up local women – and men – who begin to lose their inhibitions, and their clothes ...
The script boasts a barrage of puns, ranging from the obvious ('Mammary Lane') to the slightly more slow-burning. 'I'm a country member,' announces one frumpy female character. 'Yes, I remember,' mutters her husband.
The dialogue is a riot, as are the catchy, witty musical numbers, notably one that recounts a multitude of slang terms for breasts, and a magnificently ripe piece sung by the Riff Raff-style henchman Kitten, played by Lyric stalwart, Tommy Wallace.
In Russell Morton's clutches, the main character, a sinewy, sinister scientist – whose name I won't spoil – comes across like Kenneth Williams playing Gollum, snaffling the audience's attention each time he appears. Also good value are Conleth Kane, as the repressed homosexual hairdresser Jake, and Tara Flynn, as his wife Jemma, whose dowdy dress and oversized glasses tip us off that a makeover is imminent.
Boyd's work is a shameless romp populated with sleazy, strutting grotesques, yet the oddest sight at tonight's performance is perhaps the elderly lady in the audience wearing what looks like her Sunday best, who leaves the theatre at the end with the aid of a walking stick. Quite what she may have mistaken this brazenly-titled affair for is anyone's guess, but she seemed to enjoy it. So, not just for filth merchants, then.
On a side note, it's nice to see the show's makers putting their money where their potty mouths are. All royalties from the sale of Molly Wobbly's Tit Factory merchandise goes to the Terrence Higgins Trust ”
EDINBURGH GUIDE ★★★★
“ Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory gives it to you up front. If you have any reaction to the title other than a guilty, immature chuckle then this is not the show for you. If you enjoy being transported into a world where gothic B-movies meet comic books then you’ve found the right place.
Enter the town of Little Happening with the mysterious clock stopping stranger, who arrives to enrich the dreary days of three stale couples who live on Mammary Lane through song, dance, high voltage camp and plastic surgery. Said stranger also looks like the love child of Kenneth Williams and a Troll, and possibly the influence of the judder man, played with mesmerising presence by Russell Morton.
Written and directed by Belfast composer Paul Boyd, this titillating musical is a brash comedy that takes a sardonic swipe at society’s obsession with flawless beauty and the perfect life.
This tale plays out like a cartoon sketch comedy with a dollop of dreamlike oddity, reflecting on perceptions we all make and the absurd situations we get ourselves into with gleeful delight and boasting. Plus taboo subjects are always better in song.
The romp pulls us along, offering windows of reflection into the characters, from recalling old embarrassments – The Minister’s Wife a particularly humourous highlight, perfectly showcasing the cringe of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time – to losing your inhibitions (the Vegas-esque Off My Chest is a real eye-opener).
It’s a self-deprecating exploration of humans; sexual desire, being caught up in self and rebuffing reality in favour of the hypothetically idealised world you create, the fabulously vulgar One Night Stand being a perfect example of wanting something then changing your mind three hours later.
The cast of eight sharply execute the witty, innuendo-riddled dialogue with delight, and Boyd’s compositions are catchy with just the right undertones of cleverly hilarious sentiment – the “money song” being Designed by Margaret Brown, delivered magnificently by Olivier-award winner Leanne Jones.
Sure the plot may sag south as all breasts inevitably will, but this is, quite simply, stupidly funny entertainment that will put a smile on your face. Paul Boyd’s programme note states he aimed to create a memorable musical that he hoped the audience would remember for years to come. It’s safe to say this show will stay with them for a long time … especially the cheeky ending ”
“ Although this was were I started in reviewing, Musical Theatre is a genre I don’t often cover these days - but such was the buzz I decided to return to my roots and check it out for myself.
This musical has been bubbling around in the mind of writer composer Paul Boyd for a while now and at last he has managed to get it into reality with a funny script filled with good music.
Set in the village of the well named Little Happening, three couples run three rather under used shops, Jemma and Jake a hairdressers, Ruth and Robbie a watch repairers, and Margaret and Malcolm a dress shop - maybe all is not right in this sleepy village.
Who has bought the old church? Who is the stranger in town and why did all the clocks stop?
As well as writing this piece, Boyd also is the director, so there is no conflict of ideas here, it is well staged especially given the constraints of the stage area and a fantastically talented cast to perform some excellent songs, some of which have a hook so strong they could land a shark.
The eight strong cast of Tara Flynn, Conleth Kane, Orla Gormley, Christopher Flynn, Leanne Jones, Kevin Hynes, Russell Morton and Tommy Wallace breathe life into the characters and all sing so well and all are a added bonus to this class production.
I sense there could be the potential of a cult following in the offing here, perhaps an alternative to Rocky Horror. Who knows. But wouldn’t it be good to get in on the ground floor. Go see it now ”
“ Paul Boyd’s big, bold and brash musical is a tour-de-force of bad taste hilarity and is probably the campest thing you will see at the festival this year. Whilst there will be endless comparisons to the likes of Rocky Horror and Sweeney Todd, Molly Wobbly’s has a unique style all of its own and is more than just a spawn from the blueprints of previous offbeat musicals.
The show follows the bored inhabitants of the town Little Happening and charts how they react to a strange newcomer. As he stirs new plans to take over a deserted church, the creepy green-wigged figure visits some of the female members of the town and kick-starts a peculiar new lease of life for each individual. Admittedly not the most original of plotlines but the story comes second to the gloriously depraved and downright hilarious sequence of events that follow.
From the off the show contains some toe-tapping musical numbers that are filled with sly humour and performed with gusto. This is very much an ensemble piece; each song is impeccably performed and each actor plays their part with gloriously wild characterisations that support the production as a whole. Every cast member gets a moment to shine but special mention has to go to Orla Gormley for her lanky physicality as the dumb horny blonde Ruth, Conleth Kane’s bitchy facial expressions as the questionably heterosexual Jake and Russell Morton’s slimy protagonist, who sleeks around the stage looking like a depraved Willy Wonka cardboard cut-out.
Meanwhile, Tommy Wallace threatens to steal the show with a camp as Christmas show-stopping solo as Kitten, an assistant with the taste for the flamboyant. If you happen to be sitting anywhere near this “angel” when his solo begins, then do be prepared to be *ahem* touched.
The writing is fantastic; there are a number of lines in here that will be quoted for weeks to come. Although a very adult production, it’s more than just cheap innuendos (though it has a fair share) and the gag rate remains thick and fast. It’s also worth pointing out the production design, costumes and wigs emphasise the wacky essence of the production and there’s some cleverly designed lighting effects that add class to the piece as a whole.
As the tongue-in-cheek musical comes to a head it provides the audience with a happy ending, if a suitably morally deprived one. Having spent ninety minutes with the inhabitants of Little Happening, and grinning like the Cheshire Cat between the tear-inducing laugh-out-loud moments, I came to the conclusion that this show is probably the funniest and most enjoyable piece of theatre I have seen at the Fringe for some time. It’s the perfect afternoon’s entertainment that completely complies with the cheeky, fresh and vibrant style of the festival itself and I’m sure will become a firm favourite for those in the mood for something a little more sassy and daring ”
“ Pillows, baps, fun bags, whatever you decide to call breasts, Molly Wobbly is sure to have a word that appeals to you. And whilst this sounds like the punch line of a bad joke, it’s actually the lyrics to one of a series of hilarious songs featured in Molly Wobbly the Concert.
After starting life under the name of Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory as a staged concert in 2011 in Belfast, then a full-scale production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012, this intimate concert of the musical’s highlights in the West End’s Phoenix Artist Club is a hysterical night of lighthearted fun.
The concert stages the story of a town called Little Happening (on Mammary Lane to be exact), where three couples struggle to keep their failing businesses in check, and work through their loveless marriages. On one strange morning, the clocks all stop, and the newspaper announces that someone has bought the abandoned church in the village. A mysterious man named Ithanku soon appears and the town’s lives begin to change pretty drastically. In the intimate space of the Phoenix Artist Club, (only 60 seats) the show fills the space easily, and so too does the elaborate story by Paul Boyd. It flows freely into 90 minutes of jam-packed singing by an extraordinary talented cast.
Hairspray’s Leanne Jones plays Margaret, a woman with a dream of becoming a fashion designer, who shines in her solo song Designed by Margaret Brown with her beautiful, big voice. Jones is matched by on-stage husband Malcolm, played by Alastair Brookshaw (best known for Parade). Christopher Finn’s Robbie and Kate England’s Ruth are high school sweetheart horologists struggling to keep their sex life alive, Robbie often exclaiming that his wife is too demanding since he bought her a dishwasher last week. They too crack the audience up, especially during Presbyterian Minister’s Wife, Ruth having offended many by saying the F-word in the manse. Conleth Kane and Lucy Garrioch as Jake and Jemma respectively, take the stage as a mismatched Irish pair of hairdressers, Jake often displaying his much more camp side to the audience, as well as some amazing Beyonce-style riffing.
Jordan Lee Davies as Kitten and Russell Morton as the quirky Ithanku dramatise two extraordinarily unusual characters, but they play their parts to such extremes that the audience cannot help but love them. When the whole group sings in the songs joyful harmonies, it becomes an absolute treat for the ears. The catchy, quirky lyrics are just the right balance of hilarious and serious, and I even found myself humming them on my exit.
Chock full of innuendos, crass humour, and more camp than a row of tents, Molly Wobbly in Concert is just a joyous, fun evening at the theatre. If you want to laugh your head off, and listen to some of the West End’s finest performers, this is the show for you ”
MUSICAL THEATRE REVIEW ★★★★
“ If you like your musicals to be laugh-out-loud funny, quite ludicrous, seriously camp and brilliantly bizarre, then Molly Wobbly, running for the next seven weeks at the intimate Leicester Square Theatre’s Lounge, is definitely for you.
With its fabulous Ed Wood-esque, low budget cinematic introduction and the entrance of the character, Ithanku, played with oddball brilliance by Russell Morton, the show entertains you from the very start.
Like a scene from German expressionist 1920 classic movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the prologue sets the scene superbly for what follows, namely a rollercoaster ride of catchy songs, cheeky characters and outrageous innuendo, plus a mind-bogglingly ridiculous storyline.
In the programme notes, writer, lyricist and director Paul Boyd states that: “in finally making it to the London stage in 2015, Molly Wobbly has survived the lumps and bumps that all too often scupper original musicals.” Had it not come to its wonderfully wacky creative fruition here, it would have been a sad day indeed for off-beat musicals.
The original production, called Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, was commissioned back in 2010 by the Lyric Theatre Belfast, being based on a ten-minute musical that a few years earlier had been shortlisted for the Mackintosh Foundation’s Quest For A New Musical. A critically acclaimed run followed in 2012 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Such productions need a cast totally committed to the cause, and each member here brings plenty to the table, not least Conleth Kane as wonderfully OTT gay hairdresser Jake. Looking and sounding like a camp James Nesbitt with a blonde Shane Warne (Aussie cricketer) mullet, he’s almost a show in his own right.
This musical tells the saucy story of Margaret (Jane Milligan), Ruth (Stephanie Fearon) and Jemma (Cassie Compton), a trio trapped in loveless marriages and stuck with failing businesses and who, one by one, receive unexpected breast augmentations after a stranger (Ithanku) arrives on Mammary Lane in the town of Little Happenings. Cue the marvellously feisty number ‘Off My Chest’, a shameless, bawdy musical celebration of women’s assets, brilliantly executed by Milligan, Fearon and Compton – a kind of titty ditty if you like.
Like all the best female ‘supports’, this production does have some padding here and there, but most songs stand on their own eccentric merits, the vocals are impressive without exception, and the action rattles along at a perfect pace.
Even on the tiny stage, the choreography (Sarah Johnston) manages to be madcap and inventive and the production’s design, by Diego Pitarch, is inspired for such a small space.
Asked to choose a stand out number, I’d plump for ‘Trust Yourself to Me’ - as funny and entertaining a tune you could wish for in a Fringe musical, while the best line of all comes from Alan Richardson, as Kitten, when advising Margaret on some outfits. “You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter,” she says with acid tongue firmly in cheek.
As impressive as the entire cast is, it’s Morton, as Ithanku, who steals the show with his almost genius level contorted and ghoulish, spiky bright green-haired characterisation – his every appearance had me in fits, and it’s a very long time since that happened.
This has to be the best fringe musical in town – BRA none ”
“ Comedy regional accents, affectionately camp characters, a break-dancing nun and heaps of exposed wobbly bits; what more could you possibly want from a night at the theatre?
A night at Jamie Chapman Dixon’s concert production of Paul Boyd’s quirky musical tour of the dysfunctional marriages along Mammary lane and the mysterious monsieur who saves them is a delight. [He] should be praised in his giving this unique show another incarnation, even in its modest concert setting.
The score is one of the best new musical theatre compositions we’ve heard in a long time. With marvelously witty lyrics and positively memorable tunes that have an affectionate nod to the commercial mega musical whilst still feeling fresh, fun and feisty.
Boyd’s staging is economic and effective while Matthew Reave and Simon Burrow’s musical supervision and direction is top notch with impeccable specificity and nuance throughout.
The ensemble cast is wonderful in their larger-than-life portrayals of the inhabitants of Little Happening. Standout performances are very hard to narrow down as the caliber is of the utmost degree; however, Russell Morton’s total immersion into the haunted Ithanku and Leanne Jones’ poignant emotional journey through the 11 o’clock number, Designed by Margaret Brown, are highlights.
Molly Wobbly has cast her sassy, seductive spell on this London concert production. It has whet our appetite for the potential of a full-blown, camp explosion of bazongas… and we definitely want us some of that! ”
“ Making a long overdue arrival in the capital Molly Wobbly, Paul Boyd's smutty subversive paean to the vanity of cosmetic surgery finally opens at the Phoenix Arts Club. A search through these reviews will find the Edinburgh 2012 production version and subsequent CD already well commented upon and in a week when the satirical US import Urinetown is making a splash in Victoria, it's grand to see new British writing celebrated too.
Molly Wobbly's bizarre fable follows three married couples in a sleepy British village, all frustrated and unhappy with their lot and their sex lives until the arrival of a shock-headed freak, bizarrely named Ithanku, who suggests that the cure for the women's respective miseries lies in breast enhancement. The show's humour is cupped firmly (or wobbly) in an 18-rated style of Carry On crude, with some of the gags being eye wateringly brilliant and many of Boyd's melodies proving extremely hummable too.
The beauty of this staged concert version lies in the company that Boyd has assembled. A handful of newcomers combine with some stalwarts from the Edinburgh cast and notwithstanding the pre-recorded backing track, the vocal work on display is immense. All of the harmonies are glorious with Leanne Jones' spine-tingling 11 o'clock lament, Designed By Margaret Brown an absolute belter.
Fans of former The Voice star Jordan Lee Davies should also head to the basement venue. Davies plays Kitten, a strange sidekick/henchman to Ithanku and his mellifluously depraved homage to casual gay sex, One Night Stand, is just as hilarious two years on from Edinburgh, notwithstanding Boyd’s nip and tuck to the lyrics. Kitten's torch song Guardian Angel is possibly one of the best British musical theatre songs of recent years.
Russell Morton's Ithanku is a treat of a performance, whilst Kate England's repressed Presbyterian minister's wife also provides some well written laughs. Conleth Kane brilliantly reprises his camp hairdresser, alongside an Alastair Brookshaw who as Malcolm, Margaret Brown's husband is a convincing spouse, henpecked by a wife (Jones) who is so much larger than life.
The venue ain't great (pub noise wafts in too often) but the performances are magical and the talent and innovation manifest by the show deserve a wider audience. Give Molly Wobbly a live band and a larger stage and she could truly reach her full potential.
With funny filthy lyrics, ridiculously skilled singers that are busting with talent and saucy scantily clad actresses, this is a show that speaks both to and about, us all ”
MUSICAL THEATRE REVIEW
“ This new production – a staged concert version in the back room of The Phoenix Artist Club – will be many Londoners’ first opportunity to witness one of the strangest fantasy comedies going.
The enforced intimacy of the cabaret-style atmosphere emphasises Boyd’s comedic songwriting in ways that one can imagine would be lost on a full-sized stage. And for much of Act I, the story set-up – three couples running neighbouring shops on Mammary Lane in the struggling town of Little Happening – seems little more than an excuse to string together a succession of witty, if adolescently filthy, numbers.
The overarching story, of a magical fantasy figure (the gloriously contorted Russell Morton) who enchants the local residents to see their own beauty to the initial consternation of their spouses, does provide ample opportunity for a spirited cast to demonstrate their vocal and comedic abilities. The bawdiness comes thick and fast, with entendres having barely enough time to become single, let alone double. This is definitely not a show for children, while certainly appealing to the big kids in all of us.
There is very much an emphasis on the women in the cast in Act I, as each is transported into an idealised version of their back story. From Leanne Jones’ haberdasher regretting her unfulfilled dreams to be a fashion designer, to Ruth’s (Kate England) years at Little Happening Comprehensive becoming a twisted parody of the typical American high school musical, the initial impression is of a show celebrating women, with the weak husbands providing comedic support.
But not only is that comedy element high – Conleth Kane’s dance-loving hairdresser Jake in particular – the men do get their own chance to shine. The strongest male performance comes not from the husbands, though, but from Jordan Lee Davies who, after a succession of brief cameos, blossoms as guardian angel-cum-transvestite Kitten. His paean to the frustrations of gay dating in One Night Stand sums up everything about Molly Wobbly, in one larger than life song: incredibly crude, highly funny, and works best in a cabaret setting with a performer who knows no shame.
As a musical which garnered rave reviews during a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it feels that staging Molly Wobbly as a boutique cabaret performance at the Phoenix is bringing that sort of sensibility to a London audience. There aren’t many shows for which such an approach would work, but for this raucous farce it’s the best possible staging ”