Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Molly Wobbly

Original book, music, and lyrics by Paul Boyd
Martin Witts & Lesley Ackland for Leicester Square Theatre
Leicester Square Theatre (The Lounge)

Russell Morton as Ithanku Credit: Darren Bell
Alan Richardson as Catholic Nun and Conleth Kane as Jake Credit: Darren Bell
Russell Morton as Ithanku Credit: Darren Bell

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 Happenings 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.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton