Betty Blue Eyes – Norwich Theatre Royal
Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society performed an Alan Bennett comedy which has been adapted for stage and screen. This version was originally produced in London by Cameron Mackintosh and will certainly banish those January blues with it’s heart warming story, great performances and some good old fashioned laugh out loud moments.
It’s 1947 and post war rations are still causing housewives to be creative with their meals and life in the small Yorkshire town was harsh. However, the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten was not only the light in the darkness for the country, the businessmen of the town decided to host a celebratory party, but only the right sort of people were invited.
Due to the meat rationing these businessmen were secretly fattening a pig for the party. They had to be so careful as the Government Meat Inspector was ruthless in his search for unlicenced meat, to the point where he would paint the meat green so no-one would be able to eat it. In a time of extreme austerity, it was deemed as an absolute utter waste by the ordinary folk.
Along comes Gilbert & Joyce Chilvers – he is a gifted chiropodist and she is focused on regaining her status and getting invited to the ‘celebratory party’. With a burst of heroism and a desire to beat at the door of the establishment, Gilbert steals the pig and keeps it in the house – alongside his wife and the mother in law!
Joyce is smart and strategic and she manages to make the overly bizarre scenario into a win win for everyone and ultimately renews her respect and love for her husband Gilbert.
It’s a very full cast with plenty of characters to enjoy, regardless of how many words they sing or say, they all bring life and joy to the stage. In fact, having so many characters made everything so full of life and made the stage vibrant with colours and sound.
It is an unusual comedy, it’s almost a farce but not, there are silly moments, ridiculous flashes and yet some very clever amusing scenes – it seems to fit a variety of sense of humours that’s for sure. Housewives lavishly swoon over Gilbert’s ‘magic hands’, Joyce bursts into her fantasy of a glamour show singer, and top points for the on stage blink of an eye costume change, and the old Mother Dear scene where ‘Pig, No Pig’ is fast-paced, chaotic, entertaining and funny. Not to mention, there is a pig and the endless fun a story can have with a pig running around the stage.
The ‘main’ cast fulfil their acting and singing requirements with gusto and skill of bringing to life the ordinary folk of a post-war village life, yet the best character for me was the meat inspector, Mr Wormold, played by Alex Green – he was able to play the seriousness of an obsessive government official but with a touch of humour in the right spots to really bring an extra level to the part, and what a voice!
I have to mention the puppeteer James Bell, his face showed us that he truly believed he was Betty Blue Eyes – he was brilliant.