Saturday, 4 April 2009

Looking for Buddy - Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Looking for Buddy by Alan Plater
Original Score: Alan Barnes
Director: Mark Babych
Reviewer: John Roberts

It's no surprise after the huge success of Blonde Bombshells of 1943, that director Mark Babych has one again joined forces with Alan Plater to create this new Jazz/Blues inspired musical Looking for Buddy, between them they have been able to create a tongue in cheek, pastiche of film-noir and bring to the front a musical that is a jolly good romp and perfect for the current climate of doom and gloom.

Phil is an Architect that isn't getting any work, when one day a beautiful blonde woman walks into his Newcastle based office with talk about a recording from the legendary Jazz musician Buddy Bolden, what pursues is an adventure into the underworld of Jazz and muti-corporational exploitation.

Babych has taken a minimalist approach to the staging of the whole piece, which is very reminiscent to the impoverished style of most good time Jazz bars, he as usual puts his hallmark stamp of fast pace (only 90 minutes long) and energy into making the scenes come alive but this is carefully balanced with a fine skill in making sure the story stays at the centre and this is enforced by the sleek black set by Helen Goddard.

Plater's script is hilarious and cannot fail to bring tears of laughter to your eyes throughout and this is only helped by Tim Healys perfected performance as the dry and pointed architect Phil, other notable performances are Phil Corbitt as Frank the Panini man who reminded me of a younger Vic Reeves, and Jane Hollman as Bella.

With this being a new musical it felt at times that it didn't quite know where its style lay and I found myself at times questioning why a song had adapted a style that was out of character for example the Gospel style song. One would hope that after this run some of these inconsistencies in style and genre are looked at and Ironed out, but these are Minor niggles in what otherwise is a great production. The show is lined with some fantastic musical numbers and the George Formby styled pub quiz song just one shining example, credit must also be given to the onstage band lead by Howard Gray who never detract from the action despite being permanently onstage throughout.

If you are looking for a night out that will make you laugh and a show that will make you tap your feet and clap along then get yourself a ticket for Looking for Buddy as soon as possible.

Photos: Ian Tilton
Looking for Buddy runs at the Octagon until Sat 25th April 2009
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