Reviewed by Angela Paull
Last night we went to see a Fat Friends – The Musical at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The theatre is situated in the city centre and surrounded by numerous car parks. I always park in Grosvenor Place as there’s a flat £2 charge between 6pm and midnight. The theatre itself is bright and welcoming with a restaurant, snack shop and bars, providing everything you need for a good night out under one roof.
Fat Friends – The Musical is written and directed by Kay Mellor and remains true to the original TV series. It’s set in Headingley, Leeds and is chock full of Northern humour.
We start with a Lycra clad class sweating it out at a Zumba session. This sets the scene for several intertwining tales of ordinary folk who need to loss a pound (sometimes stone) or two.
The main storyline revolves around the Stevenson family. Mum Betty, who is in the running for Slimmer of the Year, having lost 5 stone, Dad Fergus who runs the local chippy and daughter Kelly. Kelly is due to get married and has set her heart on a dress, trouble is it’s two sizes too small.
After her mum fails to win Slimmer of the Year, Kelly’s rant on local TV goes viral and suddenly the scheming owner of Super Slimmers (played with perfect angular spikiness by, ex Atomic Kitten member, Natasha Hamilton) sees the ideal PR opportunity to globalise her brand. Kelly has 6 weeks to lose the weight on the Super Slimmers plan and her wedding dress (and day) will be paid for.
The irony is that, as Kelly loses weight (becoming obsessed and hooked on diet pills) she becomes less attractive to fiancé Kevin and the whole wedding is in jeopardy.
The Stevenson family are played by some very familiar faces. Jodie Prenger (Kelly), Sam Bailey (Betty) and Kevin Kennedy (Fergus) all acquit themselves brilliantly. They have some fabulous songs between them and the three-way number “If you don’t want to Marry Him” was a highlight for me. Fiancé Kevin is played by ex cricket legend Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff. Judging by the whoops from the audience when he first appeared on stage he may have been the main attraction for many. He played affable, but slightly dim, Kevin with just the right amount of lovable nerdiness though his vocals couldn’t quite match up to the powerhouses that were Jodie Prenger and Sam Bailey.
Meanwhile we have some nice sub plots. Super Slimmers leader Lauren (Natalie Anderson) and local vicar Paul (Jonathan Halliwell) have a massive crush on each other but their different religions look like getting in the way. Local news reporter Val (Chloe Hart) is told she has to lose weight or lose her job whilst Alan’s (Neil Hurst) wife has gone AWOL for weeks before finally telling him the marriage is over.
Interspersed were some great bawdy moments. “Diets Are Crap” speaks for itself as a song but it was “Chocolate” that had me almost crying with laughter. Some clever costumery transformed three of our ladies into Cadbury girls whilst in a “whip most of your clothes off” moment, reminiscent of The Full Monty, we had three of the boys waving around some rather large and suggestive chocolate fingers. Flake anyone?
Behind all the fun and froth there are some quite serious messages though. The power of social media being one but, more importantly, that weight is not the be all and end all and that we should love ourselves for what we are. The stand out song was “Beautiful” a haunting melody about wanting to be just that, in whatever form that might take.
Ultimately, I left the theatre feeling uplifting and thoroughly entertained. This is a production that has Northern Soul by the bucketful.
Tickets cost from £19.50 to £47.50 (booking fees may apply).
Fat Friends – The Musical is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 5-10 February 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.mayflower.org.uk or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811