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Theatre Review Great acting let down by poor script

Teddy
The Vaults
London

THIS revival of Teddy manages to be less than the sum of its parts.

There’s some extraordinary talent and promise in the musical, set in the world of 1950s Teds, replete with teenage angst and energy.

Molly Chesworth, as the slick and spiky Josie, is incandescent.

George Parker, as Teddy, a cheeky Cockney cub, is the perfect foil; he’s mesmerised by her and entirely delighted to be led astray.

Musicians Johnny Valentine and the Broken Hearts kick-start the show brilliantly, and keep the energy level cranked up, their eponymous lead singer played with great louche appeal by Dylan Wood.

The band, Harrison White [channelling Buddy Holly] as Buster Watson, Andrew Gallo comically bear-like in his role as Sammy “the Sticks” Smith, and Freya Parks, toughing it out and swatting aside the boys — all shine.

What could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, the script.

It’s a torrent of words, and true, there are a few poetic moments — a burned-out church is “like a battered ribcage, waiting to die.”

But the rhyming, the internal, infernal rhyming. It’s an overload — a character is “….disarming and charming and just a little alarming.”
Gin is “oily”... Josie wipes her hands on a “doily.”

It’s incessant, and the law of unintended consequences ensures that its effect undermines the drama.

Tristan Bernays’s script simply doesn’t serve these youngsters well enough.

Direction, care of Eleanor Rhode, has an inventive and sure hand. Both Chesworth and Parker play out assured vignettes, bringing other characters to the action, with the diminutive Josie giving us a brutish creep, Tully, twice her size and ten times less attractive.

The problem with slick choreography is that a fair bit of human action and reaction is simply lost and the narrative is weakened.
As a spectacle, this is a decent night out, but, given the subject matter, there should be more, here.

The post-war teenagers were living in extraordinary times, making the best of bomb sites as their hangouts, desperate for some US glamour, searching for their own sound.

If only we could see some more nuanced narrative, some uncertainty as the sweethearts embark on a frightening and violent path.

Still, let’s keep an eye on the names. These young people are the right stuff and may yet break some hearts.

Ends June 3. Box office www.thevaults.london

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