Theatre Royal, Newcastle 3 stars When the lights go up on a real life Susan Boyle before she launches into her now anthemic take on I Dreamed A Dream, everything that’s happened in the previous two and a half hours pales into insignificance. It’s not that this musical and dramatic tribute to the West Lothian woman who became a global phenomenon following her 2009 appearance on TV freak show, Britain’s Got Talent, doesn’t hit the spot occasionally. It’s just that the still wonderfully untutored SuBo does it so much better.
Written by Alan McHugh with Elaine C Smith as a star vehicle for the latter, the play finds Boyle hemmed-in and hounded by paparazzi and unable to cope with her sudden fame. The audience becomes her confidant as she watches over her own story, from a low-expectations birth to that fateful Glasgow audition that changed her life. Inbetween come snapshots of small-town life; school bullying, thwarted romance, low self-esteem, all set to a series of sixties and seventies social club cabaret hits.
In this respect the show is partly the sort of rock n’ roll nostalgia trip McHugh is so adept at, part rags to riches schmaltz with dialogue that at times sounds lifted straight from a greeting card. If there are some seriously cringe-worthy moments in Ed Curtis’ production, set on a back-drop of stacked-up TV sets that look leftover from The Man Who Fell To Earth, Smith herself cuts a sincere if at times self-reflexive figure. As the script itself admits, Boyle’s story has no ending yet. For all its heartstring-tugging, perhaps, as with its subject, it’s a case of too much too soon.
The Herald, March 28th 2012