No Fat Juliets
Dukes Lancaster; Oldham Coliseum; Ladybrain Productions
The Dukes, Lancaster
Hell, it seems, hath no fury quite like an over-sized actress overlooked once too often for those big roles...
Sue McCormick was destined to forever play Juliet’s Nurse rather than Romeo’s Squeeze so takes her revenge in this self-penned play she describes as a Plus-Sized Love Story.
It’s actually a bumper bundle of a tale, set in the Lake District, invoking the spirits of the romantic poets, and even throwing in some energetically-produced songs for good measure.
The latter provide the undoubted highlights of a show that maybe has a little too much to get off its chest and ends up obscuring its notion that a profession that has embraced colour-blind casting now needs to do the same for the fuller-figured.
John Newman-Holden’s music certainly enters into the spirit with songs ranging from "Keeping Your Chins Up" to "I Like Being Me"—which in style and sentiment could have escaped from a Disney animation.
The showstopper has to be "Fat Girl Blues" (a song Bessie Smith might have coveted in later years), but it also underlines the uneven nature of much of the rest of the production. Sue McCormick gifts five larger-than-life characters to the rest of the cast but seems too content to underplay her own role.
The moment at which her character Beth auditions for a National Theatre role should have proved she could have been a contender, but instead becomes a bit of a cop-out.
A few of the gags, and there are several good ones, are force-fed into the plot rather than allowed to filter through the story, but Louie Ingham directs it all with some appropriate theatrical flourishes, over Alison Heffernan’s two-storey set design.
There are just enough crowd-pleasing moments to make for an engaging two-hour performance, probably climaxing at the moment that the show’s star enjoys a, well, dead poet’s society!
As Percy Bysshe Shelley, Richard Hand is also evidently channelling Benedict Cumberbatch, and—as a series of hard-hearted casting directors—you have to hope that Kieran Buckeridge won’t be prejudicing his next audition.
No Fat Juliets plays here until October 12 before the co-production moves to Oldham Coliseum.
Reviewer: David Upton