Salad Days @ Riverside Studios, London

cast list
Andrew Ahern, Lee Boggess, Emma Burford, Sophie-Louise Dann, Michelle Francis, Sam Harrison, Matthew Hawksworth, Graham Howes, Claire Machin, Spencer OBrien, Ellie Robertson, Richard Suart

directed by
Bill Bankes-Jones
As performed by the opera company Tte Tte, the 1950s musical Salad Days, by Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds, becomes something more than just a fun night out.

Salad Days was, in its time, the longest-running musical ever, smashing the record held by Chu Chin Chow.

In spite of this popularity, all that survives of the original music are various bastardised scores that are unplayable in their current form, and a heavily edited original cast recording.

Undeterred, Tte Tte has pieced together all of the available evidence to produce something close to how the original would have sounded.
The fruits of this labour are seen here, superbly played by Anthony Ingle’s band, which consists entirely of two pianos, a double bass and percussion.

The musical, which features a magic piano that possesses people to dance, depicts a brave new post-war world. While its true that some of the lines could have come straight from the pen of W. S. Gilbert and several routines are clearly grounded in the music hall tradition, there is also something forward-looking about the writing.

Embracing the shows catchy, but clever, tunes, the cast perform with great panache and slickness. Headed by Michelle Franciss Jane and Sam Harrisons Timothy, there is really no weak player amongst them. Particular accolades, however, must go to Matthew Hawksworths Tramp, played with a moving sensibility, and Richard Suart for such an accomplished portrayal of Sir Ambrose Williams.

Studio 2 of Hammersmiths Riverside Studios is used to good effect as the walls of the entire box-like area are surrounded with bright yellow curtains, the audience sitting either side of the central performance area. As each person enters they are presented with a degree, which adds to the atmosphere by making them a part of the graduation ceremony they are about to witness. When buying tickets, patrons can also opt to sit at tables where Pimms and sandwiches are laid on.

The only disappointment is that the studio was not primarily designed for singing, and there is a lot of ‘dead air’ that doesnt always allow the voices to blend with each other. Fortunately, however, this only seems to affect the opening number, and it remains a minor quibble in the face of a lively, enjoyable evening that has much to commend it.

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