Theatre review: All The Fun Of The Fair

Posted on: 05 May 2010 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews the pleasant play, All The Fun Of The Fair at the Garrick Theatre.

Take a small scale Romeo & Juliet type tale, add a Mama Mia style approach and set it all in a fairground to the music of former heartthrob David Essex and the result is the pleasant, unpretentious show All The Fun Of The Fair at the Garrick Theatre.

Essex plays Levi, an affable travelling fairground owner, recently widowed, and father to a rebellious teenage son Jack, who has fallen in love with Alice, a girl from outside the travellers’ community and the daughter of the local criminal. Just as the romance seems doomed so indeed does the fate of the fair.

This is a musical which aims to show what life is really like for works and their families behind all the bright lights, chirpy music and popcorn. Yet it is also a dwindling way of life, superseded by other forms of entertainment. The story is quite contemporary and deals with subjects not always addressed in theatre, such as oncoming middle age seen by a divorcee and a widower, who wonder if love will ever come their way again. (Their romance runs parallel with the relationship between the teenage children that propel the drama).

While the script is no great shakes, this is a show with its heart in the right place, which has a directness and poignancy that makes it totally endearing. And the musical interludes including such memorable numbers as You’re In My Heart, Winter’s Tale, Hold Me Close, Rock On and Gonna Make You A Star seem as newly minted as when they were first performed.

The Silver Dream Machine himself David Essex, with his goatee beard and silver hair, may bear little resemblance to the glamorous young star of the early 70s but he still exudes an undeniable charismas, and manages to send himself up with an ironic smile when delivering the line “I had this long dark curly hair once”. He is supported by an enthusiastic cast, of whom Louise English as Rosa, a fortune teller, who still harbours a soft spot for Levi, Michael Pickering as Jack, and Nicola Brazil as Alice, the girl with whom he is smitten, stand out.

The set by Ian Westbrook captures the tawdry gilits of a travelling funfair with stalls, dodgems and a carousel on stage, making us feel we are actually there.

In all then this is a show to put a smile on your face and a tear on your cheek!

Where: Garrick Theatre

When: plays until 5 September

Box Office: 0844 412 4662

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