Problems with Ben Elton's conversion of Queen's back catalogue into a theatrical production? 'We Will Rock You's depiction of a dystopian future where live music is banned rails against the corporatisation of music like a crusty hippy in John Lewis. Yet during the interval, the tannoys blare out: 'Ladies and gentleman, the “We Will Rock You” finale is guaranteed to blow your mind! So get your glowsticks now!'.
Agit-prop tirades against the soullessness of the state's enforced formation dancing are used to paint the rock-star wannabe of a lead (called Galileo Figaro, obviously) as a futuristic Che Guevara. But upon the discovery that rock'n'roll offers untrammelled freedom of expression, he prances about like one of Britney's backing dancers.
At points, 'We Will Rock You' gets so worked up about the cultural impact of 'X Factor' et al that you wonder if the audience might be sent out to bring back Simon Cowell's head on a plate. Yet the production happily employs 'X Factor' ejectee Brenda Edwards as one of the leads. And while it's box-tickingly keen to include a (clunky) feminist female lead, they patronisingly explain her existential malaise as being a lack of 'Somebody to LURRRVE'.
But why would 'We Will Rock You' be a credible work of theatre? After all, Queen's brand image was so arch that they could've starred in their own 'Carry On' film. So never mind the clunky song intros ('What do I want? I want TO BRAAYYYYK FREEEEE!') and sexual innuendo ('You are an eager beaver.' 'You leave my eager beaver out of this!', etc). It SHOULD be daft. And ultimately, the main draw is a punchy soundsystem ringing to the katana-sharp live renditions of the band's material, although it's a bit of a shame that Freddie's lyrics are occasionally tinkered with for plot purposes. As is the underwhelmingly reserved atmosphere created by a tourist-heavy audience. Queen fans with a sense of humour won't be disappointed. Theatre fans may want to look elsewhere.