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Norfolk Tourism Awards

Review: Christine The Musical, by Tony Franchi and Marion Wells, CTM Productions, at Mercury Theatre, Colchester, June 26

PUBLISHED: 13:49 29 June 2015 | UPDATED: 13:49 29 June 2015

Ashleigh Cole who plays Christine Keeler during rehearsals for Christine a new musical about Christine Keeler and the Profumo scandal which is being staged at the Colchester Mercury Theatre

Ashleigh Cole who plays Christine Keeler during rehearsals for Christine a new musical about Christine Keeler and the Profumo scandal which is being staged at the Colchester Mercury Theatre

Archant

This new musical starts with a bang – quite literally – as Christine Keeler’s drug pusher boyfriend, fires shots into the air while he rants outside the flat of Harley Street osteopath Dr Stephen Ward.

This show takes us back to a time when the sixties really started to swing. It details the human cost of The Profumo Affair, the greatest scandal of the 20th century.

It mixes historical fact and drama with great skill. The songs fit the era in which they are supposed to exist and rejoice in some witty lyrics which help to give the evening a light-hearted atmosphere so you never feel you are being given a history lesson.

The lyrics and the tone of the songs also give you an opportunity to get inside the heads of the characters and get a feel for their personalities.

The show is set in Murray’s Cabaret Club where Christine and her friend Mandy Rice Davies work as topless dancers.

It was a discreet, late-night supper-club where city dealers, judges, barristers and members of the nobility came to let their hair-down, far away from the disapproving gaze of their loved ones.

When John Profumo enters the club he sings a number which could have been lifted from a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera. Not only is it entertaining but the choice of song tells you something of Profumo himself.

The story is told in flashback with a Fleet Street reporter recalling the events that Christine has just revealed in an interview.

The standard of performance is very high with many of the actors and dancers studying on theatre courses. Ashleigh Cole makes for a sympathetic and strong Christine who contrasts nicely with Angie Diggens’ more worldy-wise Mandy Rice Davies while Kevin Topple gives The Hack a conspiratorial air which works well as he confides in the audience.

Setting the whole show in Murray’s Cabaret Club is a clever move because not only does it allows scenes with the dancing girls to provide variety, but it also means that the action can move on at a necessarily brisk pace.

The scene changes and historical information are provided by large projection screen at the rear of the stage and some well chosen pop hits from the relevant year.

Director Lindsay Lloyd, in conjunction with writers Tony Franchi and Marion Wells, has given the show some real sparkle. It’s a fascinating story and this team really bring it to life with wit and invention.

It will be interesting to see how this well-written and inventive show develops further.

Andrew Clarke

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