23 Apr

By Lionel Bart
at the Union Theatre

“Twang “ is one of the saddest stories in Theatrical musical history.
“Fings aint wot they used t’be” – Lionel Bart wrote at the height of his musical theatre fame.. He wrote single pop songs for Cliff Richard – “ Livin’ Doll “and Tommy Steel ”Handful of songs” Both of which appear in this latest re resurrection of Twang. The original cost an absolute fortune and lost all the money Bart had made on his fabulously successful show “Oliver”. He even was forced to sell the copyright on this so that he had no chance of making back any money from the enormously still popular and successful revivals.
“Twang” was the third of his latest trilogy which included “Maggie May” and “Blitz” both expensive shows that never paid their way. But “Twang” was a complete disaster, with script changes daily and infighting. It just never came together despite much help from friends. He just couldn’t get it together.
In this rewritten version, the jokes belong to 1950s kind of camp humour around the time when the world became aware of polare from Julian and Sandy, Kenneth Williams and HUGH Paddick on radio. Of course, these jokes now seem awfully stale and are only funny to certain large men in the audience who think anything camp is hilarious. It was also the time when the Carry On comedies were dwindling and concentrating too much on camp and sex jokes which soon got played out.
So the book is not witty or clever in any way and there is not a vestige of plot in Act One. However the piece is saved a little by the energy and enjoyment of the 16 strong cast. It is a romp for them and a lot of rough singing and frenetic choreography.
But the unforgiveable thing is that it is SO LONG! I thought act one was never going to end. Too many big production numbers that give the impression it’s the end, but they go on – and on.
Apart from that Poor old Robin Hood, my hero, who is dressed in a woolly cardigan like an old woman, (how could they do that?) In this play he is an abject coward having lost his ‘Twang’ and all the heroism is performed by Little John and Much the Miller’s son who is really the star of the show. Much turns up in the forest and can’t understand why everybody is singing and dancing. But he is a feisty little soul and helps Robin keep his reputation.
I enjoyed the singing of Alan A Dale – he sings Living Doll – eventually with a nice clear voice and with his guitar and Marian – the soprano got a nice song to sing
There were no mikes thank goodness, but the cast obviously missed them and used bits of wood to sing into instead.
All I can say is “Twang is, sadly, exactly wot it used t’be”


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