If you haven’t seen Molly Wobbly yet you really should get up off the sofa and go and book a ticket now as, criminally, it’s due to close on 14th March.
If there was any justice in the world, Martin Witts and Lesley Ackland, the insightful producers who brought this wonderfully and crazily camp Belfast and Edinburgh-festival-hit show to London, would keep it running and allow it to become the cult success that I know it has the capacity to be.
That isn’t to say that Molly Wobbly is a perfect show, it isn’t. Or indeed that it’s a show aimed at prim twenty-something English graduates – who seem to have been the only people sent to review it! This is an adult show for people who know their way around the world, and who will recognise the homage’s paid in the direction and score. For the show creates and then inhabits a wonderfully surreal hinterland all its own, somewhere between The League of Gentlemen, and Victoria Wood.
This is a show with which you can feel at home, and to which you will want to return.
The plot is relatively simple – though the execution is gloriously bizarre.
Using the framing device that we (the audience) are actually in the Little Happening Uniplex, about to see a film, the show draws on the imagery of the movies to set the scene and, in a wonderfully ostentatious piece of theatrics, gets you all the way from central Europe to the town of Little Happening, which appears to be somewhere in the English Midlands, where there are three shops on Mammary Lane; a hairdressers, a horologist, and a boutique offering an alteration service.
Each shop is run by a husband and wife couple. Everything seems ‘normal’ but then, what is ‘normal’, as each of the couples has their own dark secret which we are, through the medium of song and dance, about to discover…as a bizarrely dressed green-haired stranger, Ithanku (the peculiarly weird and angular Russell Morton) arrives in town.
Jemma and Jake in the hairdressers have known each other from school. Jemma (played with a winning sweetness by Cassie Compton) has unruly bright red hair, glasses, and a husband, Jake (played so marvellously over the top by Conleth Kane that he only has to make an entrance and have the audience in stitches) who just may not be the red-blooded heterosexual she believes and hopes him to be.
Ruth and Robbie, the horologist (clockmaker) are perhaps the most easily recognisable pair. Ruth (played with a delightful innocence by Stephanie Fearon) wants to have an orgasm, while Robbie (the toughest, roughest, trucker of a clock maker you’re ever likely to see in Christopher Finn) doesn’t really understand women, and thinks she should make do with a dishwasher…
Margaret and Malcolm, the long-married and long-suffering most ‘senior’ couple have settled into a comfortable life of inadequate decline. Margaret (the wonderfully stentorian, yet majestically sexy Jane Milligan) had dreams of being a designer, but has had to settle instead for being a member of a trade body, the acronym of which I’m afraid I’m not allowed to use in this review… her husband, town councillor Malcolm (the impressively downtrodden Ashley Knight) has become his wife’s life work.
More than that in terms of plotting I really don’t want to relate. Go with the flow would be the best suggestion I could give. However I would add that there are other parts played by members of the cast, most notably Alan Richardson whose range and versatility take him from disinterested cinema usher, through truly scary Catholic nun, to the outrageous Kitten who has what comes nearest to being the ‘eleven o’clock number’ and is so unspeakably and yet brilliantly filthy that even I blushed at some of the things the poor man was asked to sing.
Like I said, this is not a show for prim twenty-something English graduates…
It’s always difficult when someone from out of town asks you what they should go and see. When it was running I always used to point people in the direction of Avenue Q. Until the 14th of March it’s a no-brainer. Molly Wobbly.