Betty Blue Eyes review: A breezy musical based on an Alan Bennett play

The elements of food rationing, postwar austerity and an approaching royal event have echoes of the present shortages caused by recession and bellicose interventions as well as the impending coronation of King Charles III.

In a small town, local businessmen are fattening up a pig named Betty for a function to celebrate the impending marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

When chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers (Sam Kipling) and his socially aspiring wife Joyce (Amelia Atherton) get wind of the secret, they steal Betty and hold their own celebration for all the ordinary folk who have failed to secure an invite to the posh do.

Things do not go quite according to plan. The farcical antics that ensue as Gestapo-like Meat Inspector Wormold (David Pendlebury, displaying more ham than Betty), tries to track down illegal meat products and potential pignapper Allardyce (Josh Perry) has a kind of vegan epiphany when he falls for Betty’s blue eyes are deftly handled by director Sasha Regan.

The period detail is well observed, not only in the costumes and hairstyles but also in the deportment and delivery of the 16-strong cast.

Individual songs and vocals are variable, the real triumphs here are the ensemble numbers – Fair Shares For All, Another Little Victory – delivered with an upbeat gusto that is hard to resist.

How choreographer Kasper Cornish manages to create big ensemble formation dance numbers with 16 performers wielding props such as brooms, flags and strings of sausages on a stage the size of a cigar box is quite beyond my comprehension.

George Stiles’s and Anthony Drew’s songs are crowd-pleasing nostalgia-fests and serve Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman’s book well. It’s a tonic, with a dash of bathtub gin.

Union Theatre until April 22 Tickets:

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