‘Betty Blue Eyes’ – Mad Hatter Productions, The Headgate Theatre, Colchester
The story revolves around a chiropodist and his wife stealing a pig being illegally reared to celebrate Elizabeth and Philip’s royal wedding banquet in 1947. Set in austerity Britain the opening number ‘Fair Shares for All’ instantly establishes the fragile optimism of that time.
With a company of 22, it would be fair to say you might expect a few weaker performances here and there but there were none.
Nathan Rigg as Gilbert Chilvers gave a warm and endearing performance as the Chiropodist who has ‘Magic Fingers’ – which could be interpreted as a comment of the sexual frustration of many women in the 1940’s while their men were away at the front. He gave a very credible performance and was a joy to watch. He was well paired against Ella D’Arcy Jones as his wife Joyce, who was indeed a force to be reckoned with due to her need to be recognised as ‘Somebody’. Ella performed extremely well, showing lots of skill in her interpretation of the part.
I also loved Ellena Bacon as Joyce’s mother, who thinks Gilbert and Joyce are planning to kill her rather than the pig. Ellena never once broke from character even when moving furniture in scene changes. She had great comedic timing and rang every nuance out of the part.
Alex Terry as Dr James Swaby had great stage presence and was completely believable as the snobbish middle aged doctor and town councillor along with Wade Ablitt as Henry Allardice who also had great stage technique, especially when in the presence of his beloved pig, Betty.
There were many other great performances from numerous cast members but I must mention the close harmony singing of Alice Molnar, Emily Bate and Martha Mugford in both ‘Magic Fingers’ and ‘Lionheart’. All three girls had lovely individual singing voices but they blended beautifully together and the close harmonies were sung to perfection.
The show was well choreographed and had lots of great moments but I do have to mention that in some cases the strength of the company vocals was also its downfall, as often when the ensemble were singing behind principal characters you just couldn’t hear the principal lines and often instead all that could be distinguished were the backing vocals. It would have benefitted the show if they had dropped their volume to support the principal characters rather than overpowering them.
The star of the show quite rightly so, was Betty herself, masterfully brought to life by Bethany Adamson.
Once again Mad Hatter Productions provided a great evening’s entertainment.