Vampire Hospital Waiting Room is that all-too-rare a beast in the world of new musical comedy. It is genuinely original, well written, and fun, and I loved (almost) everything about it.
Occupying the territory which might best be described as ‘Reeves and Mortimer do Rocky Horror’ it has the surreal absurdist humour of the former, and comes pretty damn close to surpassing the musical content of the latter, lacking only that take-away ‘Timewarp’ song which could propel this otherwise fine, witty, and shamelessly tuneful score to the next level of engagement.
Whether or not it was a conscious decision Craig Methven and Theo McCabe’s book is actually rather well constructed. It has a unified world that is well drawn (a hospital and the adjacent graveyard…) peopled with larger than life, and easily identifiable, archetypes (doctor, nurse, priest, crippled millionaire, his avaricious wife, etc.).
The protagonist, Dr Bloom (a wonderfully wacky Joe McArdle) has a strong and active want – it’s unusual: he wishes to be a vampire – and there is a clear obstacle to him achieving it. He is, after all, constantly being interrupted by Sexy Nurse (Abby Jackson, and Sexy Nurse really is the character’s name…) trying to get him to minister to the growing number of accident victims in the waiting area of the emergency room.
First we get Martin, the leather clad, Buckfast-swigging Scot, (Martin MacLennon) who Dr Bloom ignores, preferring to study his esoteric texts. Next arrives a stab victim, a Priest (John Rushten) who receives the same treatment. It isn’t until the arrival, by wheelchair, of comatose priapic millionaire car crash victim Arty Baldwin (Craig Methven), accompanied by his doting secretary Liz Parks (Imogen Brabant) that Dr Bloom takes any interest in his patients whatsoever.
I won’t go any further with the plot, as you need to experience it yourself, however the only other character to arrive is the comatose-Baldwin’s wife, Mrs Baldwin (Roz Ford) who has one of the best songs in the show, being the woman to put ‘fun’ in ‘funeral’.
Theo McCabe, who MD’s from the keyboard and is also credited as director, comes up with some inventive ways of getting around the fact that one of his main characters is in a coma, a simple change of lighting taking us directly into the interior life of the person concerned, though there were a few times when the writers lose focus on who their protagonist is. This is going to be even harder to sustain when they work the piece up in to a ‘proper’ two act show, which I hope they will do. Musicals are VERY easy to get wrong.
That being said, when stuff happens here it happens for reasons which advance the story, not merely the plot, and there are a pleasing number of unlikely threads which are resolved in ever more outlandish ways which I, for one, didn’t see coming.
There are some clever lyrics here, and more than a few which need fixing, but that’s the job of an afternoon and a decent lyricist. Ditto the book, which has some great gags, but also some humour which stands out as being undergraduate and crass rather than genuinely funny, but I’m being very picky.
To the creatives involved I’d say expand your three act structure, and get yourself a hum-dinger of an eleven o’clock number.
To anyone with twelve quid and an hour or so to spare I’d say, go and see this show so that when it hits the West End proper you can say ‘I was there’.