In a hotly anticipated revival, the 2011 stage adaptation of A Private Function is residing in the tucked away, off-West End venue, Union Theatre. Composed by the iconic writers and lyricists, Stiles and Drewe, their skills are called to the test when combining the story of a respected chiropodist and a unique little pig in 1940s Yorkshire.
Bursting into the space, all nineteen of the large cast introduce the dire food rationing situation, and with their empty stomachs, campaign for 'Fair Shares For All'. Immediately immersive with the nature of the intimate location, given the audience size in comparison to those on stage, it provides a revering sense of gratification for what theatre the smaller places have to offer. Despite the post-war turmoil over equality in this Northern town, Betty Blue Eyes is by no means a serious musical; with plenty of trotter jokes (of human and animal kind) as preparation for a royal wedding party in commemoration of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip's marriage.
Each character provides a wholly enthused performance, and become instantly loveable with their exaggerated mannerisms. The humble foot doctor Gilbert Chilvers (Sam Kipling) is desperate to make his way with his career, and appease his wife in the process. By contrast, Joyce Chilvers (Amelie Atherton) is full of flair and seeming confidence, with underlying doubts, as demonstrated when leading 'Nobody' with full gusto (which happens to have some interesting sausage string props too). It is one of several strong showings of Kasper Cornish's choreography that features throughout, and particularly noticeable with the numbers involving many in the confined area, but executed well, alongside Sasha Regan's direction. In many respects, as the titular character after all, the portrayal of the pig in question is puppetry, of which charmingly brings to life 'Betty Blue Eyes' herself, along with a song of the same name. Who'd ever have thought it was possible to be so attached to a quilted piggy?
As Joyce's crabby 74 year old mother, Jayne Ashley takes on the role and periodically pops in to offer her undesired commentary, with 'Pig No Pig' giving her more hilarious prevalence. Snobby Mrs Allardyce and her daughter, Veronica, are played by Laurel Dougall and, on this occasion, Ava- Jennings-Grant respectively, with David Pendlebury becoming tyrannical Inspector Wormold.
Stiles and Drewe are typically triumphant in their works, and this appears no exception. The wacky plot is fed by the witty and frequently catchy tracks by the duo, with 'Steal The Pig' closing act 1 and 'Another Little Victory' being big notable moments, though the finale will have you exclaiming a particular lyric at random points during your day!
In all, this production of Betty Blue Eyes is a gem of a revival. Its quintessential Britishness hits a soft spot, and has potential for a further continued legacy going forwards.