Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Some Girl I Used To Know @ The New Alexandra, Monday 10th February 2014

It must take balls (as it were) to do a one woman (or indeed a one man show) in a theatre. Gigs are different, more casual and laid back with the chance to natter to the audience and take a moment or two if things go wrong. In a theatre though there’s that expectation of polish and perfection, if you cock up your lines or freeze for any reason there’s no one there to bail you out. All eyes are on you and the success...or failure...of the whole night rests entirely on your shoulders. Thankfully tonight’s shoulders lead to a pretty safe pair of hands. Denise Van Outen has been treading the boards since 1986, perhaps most notably playing Roxy Hart in Chicago and appearing in a sell out run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s one woman show Tell Me On A Sunday, which he apparently reworked specifically for her. With Some Girl I Used to Know she’s gone one better by co-writing the entire thing.

The idea’s a simple but cute one. Van Outen plays Stephanie, an underwear tycoon (shades of Ultimo’s Michelle Mone or Katie Price perhaps?) who’s settled in a comfortable but unsatisfying marriage. Whilst staying at a posh hotel during a product launch she receives a Facebook ‘poke’ from the original love of her life prompting a look back at the ‘girl she used to be’ (see what they did there?) scattering these reflections with some classic 80s pop songs and one original number. See, cute idea eh? Unlike many ‘jukebox musicals’ there’s far more dialogue than singing, happily there are plenty of laughs to be had though as Stephanie openly discusses her early teenage fumblings and some...er...unusual uses for her boyfriend’s mum’s face towel as she debates the merits of hooking up with her ex for some no strings attached rumpy pumpy. Anyway as you’d expect Van Outen’s pretty much perfect for the role of Essex girl made good. It works because, let’s face it, she’s basically playing herself. Breaking the fourth wall throughout the show draws you in to the story nicely and the liberal use of 80s references (plus iconic ‘stuff’ from that decade suspended from the rafters) induced knowing nods and chuckles from the 40 somethings. It’s the vocal performances that impressed most though. From the Burt Bacharach-ised cover of Soft Cell’s Say Hello Wave Goodbye to the 60s tinged string rich version of Thompson Twin’s Hold Me Now Van Outen managed to bring something new to some of the 80s best loved pop songs. Who knew Sonia’s You’ve Never Stopped Me From Loving You could be a show stopper eh?

Some Girl I Used To Know is on at the New AlexandraTheatre until Wednesday 12th February then it’s off on tour of the UK. Dates and tickets for all shows right here...  

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