There have been plenty of parodies, spoofs, and rip-offs of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet since its first performance in the late-sixteenth century. In the past decade alone, we’ve had such highs as last year’s excellent & Juliet, and such lows as two separate instalments of the Gnomeo & Juliet film franchise. It seems odd, then, to say that one of the better ones comes in the form of Timpson: The Musical; a stage play that’s as utterly bonkers as it is enjoyable.
The play transposes the vague plot of Romeo & Juliet to Victorian London, where we’re introduced to the Montashoes and the Keypulets; two families whose rival businesses (the former a shoemaker, the latter a seller of “tiny saws” that look suspiciously like keys) are thrown into chaos when the children of each family (Monty Montashoe and Keeleigh Keypulet) fall in love. What follows is a barmy adventure that refuses to go in any of the directions we expect it to, but is sure to leave you with a smile on your face.
Perhaps the most charming aspect of the show is its wonderful sense of self-awareness. Many of the jokes (of which there are plenty) relate to the low budget, a moment of interaction with the audience, or the ridiculous nature of some of the narrative beats. But, because of the sheer amount of heart that’s been poured into it, these rough edges (some deliberate, some accidental) feel endearing rather than off-putting. It’s so clear that the cast are having a total ball; seeing them take a moment to stop giggling, or hearing someone say “that’s a different one to last night” (in regards to an insult), or even asking the musical conductor to give them their cue again, all contribute to a total lack of barriers between the cast and the audience, giving the whole show an innate and welcoming sense of warmth.
The principal cast are effectively split into three pairs: there are the lovers (Robert Madge and Sabrina Messer), the parents (Katy Baker and Michael Robert-Lowe), and the extras (director Sam Cochrane and Alex Prescot). Each duo is a delight whether they’re together or apart, but the highlights are undoubtedly the many different turns of Cochrane and Prescot. The two have seamless chemistry, and their various back-and-forths and asides to each other – or sometimes the audience – are easily some of the play’s funniest moments. Elsewhere, the romance between Madge and Messer is handled brilliantly, with plenty of laughs to be had (most notably in a hilariously over-the-top sex scene), while the stoniness of the Montague and Capulet parents is captured wonderfully by Baker and Robert-Lowe.
The songs are solid, too. Admittedly, they might not be as catchy or as memorable as those from other contemporary musicals, but they’re good fun in the moment and give the narrative some real momentum. There’s also some fantastic pastiche work in the form of ‘The Fisherman Song’, a track that’s a hilariously blatant rip-off of both ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ and ‘Hakuna Matata.’ Oh, and it’s also delivered beautifully by two gay fishermen.
So is Timpson the perfect musical? Of course not – but then again, what is? Aside from some wonky sound recording (the difference in volume between song and dialogue is grating, to say the least), what Gigglemug Comedy have delivered here is a charming, witty, and bonkers show which you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy. If nothing else, it’ll serve as a fun distraction for 80 minutes – and isn’t that something we all desperately need right now?
Words by Matt Taylor.
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