Betty Blue Eyes

  • Theatre
Critics' choice
Betty Blue Eyes © Francis Loney

An animatronic pig voiced by Kylie completes the arc of ludicrousness followed by Cameron Mackintosh’s latest wheeze, ‘Betty Blue Eyes’, which starts out reasonably faithful to the sly, wry Yorkshire-isms of the Alan Bennett screenplay from which it is adapted and ends up someplace altogether more fabulous.

The year is 1947 and married couple Joyce and Gilbert Chilvers (Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith) are the squeezed lower middle of Shepardsford, Yorkshire. They aspire, but are stymied by her abrasiveness, his shyness and the scheming of the rest of the town. After one knockback too many a humiliated Gilbert absconds with Betty, the eponymous pig that has been reared illicitly by Shepardsford’s great and good to be eaten in honour of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

The events that ensue are seismically daft. George Stiles and Antony Drewe’s musical numbers are vehicles for bizarre confessionals and camp flights of fancy that comprehensively banish the Yorkshire gloom. There’s some satire directed at bourgeois pettiness, but this is pure escapism, and the cast tackle it with gusto. Ann Emery’s selfish old bat Mother Dear is gleefully awful; Adrian Scarborough is compellingly weird as Stasi-ish meat inspector Wormold; Lancashire’s Joyce is magnificent in her rise from uptight wannabe social climber to slightly unhinged domestic goddess; and Shearsmith makes for a winsome straight guy, a welcome note amid the mounting silliness.

Despite Richard Eyre’s exuberant direction and Steve Mear’s hilariously kitschy choreography, I’m not sure it’ll last much longer than this cast. The songs (witty rather than memorable) really do require first-rate comic actors to pull them off. Still, it’ll always have Kylie, and it’s undeniably jolly good fun.

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|4
2 people listening
Stephanie Goldberg

Absolutely fantastic! I saw the matinee on 9th April and it was joyous. Brilliant catchy songs, very funny script and performances, great dancing. Everything was slick and the comic timing throughout was magnificent. In particular, Sarah Lancashire was amazing - delivering pathos, pizzazz, wonderful singing and a fantastic comic turn. Left me exhilarated -smiling and laughing throughout. This show was fully deserving of the standing ovation it received and I really hope it does well. Oh, and some great millinery too!

Shalinee

Hugely entertaining show with a wonderful score and tongue-in-cheek humour. Very enjoyable and good to see an original musical with such a wide audience demographic -- fun for all ages, as they say.

Aby2

Would be a lot better if the male lead could sing a note or two.

Tom

Great entertainment, very fun and great singing and dancing. Its a must. The lyrics were also catchy and understandable. (only Warhorse gets 5 stars)