When you see the advert for ‘Tickle the Musical’ with two half-dressed men front and centre, it’s safe to assume that this won’t be the most child-friendly of shows. The immediate questions which spring to mind are, which direction will a musical about the curious sport of competitive endurance tickling go? And how far will it push the envelope?
Well I can now report that it’s camp in the best way possible and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, you do see some bare bums on display and the flash of private parts here and there, but it is not an X-rated show at all (or perhaps I’m the one with the filthy mind for assuming it might be). Tickle, directed by Robert McWhir, is a light-hearted musical comedy with some catchy songs and entertaining performances.
The storyline follows an arc which we’ve all heard similar versions of before. Friends Chris (James McDowall) and Callum (Ben Brooker) are from the socially deprived area inventively called Drabtown and lament its dullness in the opening number. The pair’s luck takes an interesting turn when they are handed the opportunity of a lifetime by a tickling talent scout Davina Diamond (Amy Sutton).
Davina introduces the boys to the intriguing world of competitive tickling and lures them in with the promise of money. Tina Tickle who heads up the whole tickling business is performed in drag by Richard Watkins who manages to walk in a killer pair of high heels. Although the sport seems to be harmless fun at first, there’s a big scandal and it all turns out to be too good to be true.
The cast give some terrific performances and Amy Sutton has a sensational voice. The music is performed by just a single pianist and it feels like the score by Chris Burgess is worthy of a fuller music section. With some further workshopping and fleshing out the story so that it builds to the scandal a bit more, this piece could have a promising future and could easily entertain much larger audiences.
Photo Credit: Peter Davies