The Real Housewives of Codswallop promises to be a funny, uplifting, toe-tapping new musical that will be sure to shake off the London winter blues. Audience expectations are captured by the pre-show 80’s soundtrack and old-fashioned 70’s set, with all the potential ingredients to be a hilarious triumph… but does it fulfil the expectations?
The production follows the story of Majenta, a nouveau riche and haughty housewife who is hosting a botox party. The only guests who accept her invitation are her past council house friends, who are determined to bring Majenta down a peg or two. At first, she comes across as insufferably snooty, but as the play progresses, the audience begins to feel sorry for her as she is tormented by her guests and starts to lose her mind.
The performers give a commendable effort, fully committing to the stereotypical, over-the-top characters. They create clear personas, caricatures of a haughty middle-aged housewife, a self-obsessed “Keep-Fit Essex Girl” and an ignorant baby doll reality star, totally fixated on unicorns and rainbows.
The characters feel like they have reached a pinnacle of success in their little worlds. They all just seem very simple and narrow-minded: the script and back stories of the personas could really benefit from further development.
Nick Duncombe plays the role of Majenta, a voluptuous beauty who sports a huge beehive, heavy makeup, and a shrill, plummy voice. Tamsin, played by Terri Spencer, is an Essex bronze fitness goddess, jumping around in her purple glitzy jumpsuit, hurling insults and course humour interjected with her excruciating laugh. Monika Brodowska is Sophia, a reality star who is fixated on unicorns and rainbows. Brodowska totters around in her extraordinarily high heels and bright revealing dress, continuously taking selfies for her social media fans. Her naive ignorance is played to the full; all that matters to her is her personal brand. And these characters sound good… as a start to the script though. Not as a final set of personas in a fully-fledged play.
The musical numbers in the show lack variety and quickly become repetitive, but one song, a sunglasses rap number, stood out in a good way. The number highlights the characters’ fake ‘bon-amie’, referring to their friendship as ‘going together “Like Chalk and Cheese” and has a nice rhythm.
So what’s the main issue I’ve had with this show? The same tunes, jokes and scenarios repeat themselves on speed dial and merge into one. The problem seems to lie within the writing as there is no plot or driving force to this farce, and no proper beginning, middle or end. With the current material, the running time should have been cut by at least half and the songs need more variety; they act more as an added bonus than pieces of a stand-alone musical. Or, option number two: “The Real Housewives…” could be improved by adding more layers to the script, more complexity to the characters, and generally making the story more intriguing. It’s one way or another, as right now the show is just stuck in the middle, without enough substance to fully enjoy.
This musical is a nice idea for a night out for those who enjoy lighthearted comedies with over-the-top characters and a touch of slapstick comedy. If you’re a fan of shows that don’t take themselves too seriously, then The Real Housewives of Codswallop is definitely for you. However, if you’re looking for a musical with a strong plot and deep, nuanced characters, this may not be the right choice. The focus is on humour and entertainment, rather than a well-crafted story, and frankly, just seems not fully ready for the general audience.
The Real Housewives of Codswallop played at the Tabard Theatre 30th January-2nd February
Playing at the Bread and Roses from the 6th February
Written by Lisa Gaye Wright
Cast: Monika Brodowska as Sophia, Terri Spencer as Tamsin and Nick Duncombe as Majenta