Settling down on opening night for the latest by Tip Top Productions at the Forum Studio theatre, an elderly couple behind me were reading through the cast list. Noting where they had seen each of the actors before, it was testament to the family feel of the Tip Top cast and their championing of local talent. “Great British Soap Opera” , Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary is a musical tribute and parody of the nations love affair with soap. Focusing on failing Northern soap “Victoria Square” and the attempt to “sex up” and revive the show, we follow the lives of the fictional soap characters and the actors that play them and their respective secrets.
Following the breezy opening number, the problem with the short running time became apparent (the show is listed as one hour but over ran by 20 minutes) with a cast of 6 playing 6 soap characters and 5 real life counterparts plus one make up artist, there isn’t a lot of time to invest in the characters, who by definition are caricatures. We also felt a trick was missed by not having an interval which could have introduced a cliff-hanger element and perhaps a dramatic burst of the EastEnders’s drums.
Despite this concern, it was certainly a very funny hour and 20 with some memorable jokes and a script that riffed very well on soap clichés including secret romances, fights in pubs and pregnancy tests. One excellent joke focused on new girl Pandora accidentally on purpose getting her lines wrong and there were many other memorable lines along the way including the immortal “Get outa my pub!” and my favourite “You’re shagging him aren’t ya?” Full of sexual humour, casual swearing and characters personalities shifting in the course of a 3 minute song, the show was warmly received by a near capacity audience. Personally I would have loved to have had a greater focus on the fictional soap itself, with the real life characters being less memorable- although credit to all of the actors for their dual roles and their very funny Northern accents.
Highlight of the show was the song ” Nobody’s job is safe nowadays” , ultra bleak lyrics about empty high streets, self service tills and the demise of butchers and bakers (always an affectionate topic in Chester) set to an upbeat melody and performed with big smiles by Annie Howarth and Connor Grace, whose hesitant romance was also well done, was like The Smiths on Valium, and highly memorable.
Performed by the usual talented cast, although not vintage Tip Top, it was great to see the theatre packed , especially in the shadow of multi million Storyhouse and its touring shows. We look forward to the Pantomine next month!
Running until the 11th Nov: ticket details here http://www.tiptopproductions.co.uk/productions/production.php?id=358
With thanks to Tip Top Productions