Thursday, 1 December 2016

Mamma Mia!

The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Four stars

Ten years have passed since Catherine Johnson's ABBA-inspired play with songs last visited Edinburgh, and seventeen since Phyllida Lloyd's original production kick-started a wave of so-called jukebox musicals. As this touring revival has already made clear as it beds down for a holiday run that sees it go right through to the new year, time has not dimmed its audience's enthusiasm for what at moments looks like the ultimate feelgood affair.

Set on a magical Greek island where Sara Poyzer's tavern-owning ex-pat Donna holds court, her daughter Sophie lures three men who may be her father to the island as guests at her wedding to handsome himbo Sky. As Donna's old gal pals turn up, reunions of both a comic as well as an awkward kind add to a tempestuous mix of romance, reconciliation and identity crises all round.

Even without ABBA's back catalogue stringing the narrative together, Johnson's script has a common touch that taps into the sort of feminism that trickled down the class scale throughout the 1960s and 1970s. If after a decade and a half on the go this at times makes Lloyd's production more appear like a period piece, it also allows it to wear its hidden depths lightly.

Poyzer and Lucy May Barker as Sophie and Richard Standing as Sam lead a vivacious cast in a show that draws from the froth of Shakespeare's rom-coms just as Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Stig Anderson's songs are rooted in classical music. All this, a built in hen party, epic wedding finale and happy ever afters all round in an old school pub theatre musical writ large. 

The Herald, December 1st 2016 

ends

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