It had caused consternation amongst fans. A musical of The Smiths‘ music? Surely Morrissey and Marr couldn’t be serious. But, to prove they were, here at this pleasant off-west end venue was Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others. The miserable Mancunians were indeed taking to a rather different stage. At least in spirit.
Doubters expecting the horrors of We Will Rock You or Mamma Mia to be visited upon their soundtrack to disgruntled youth would, if anything, have been non-plussed by Anonymous Society’s take on what “musical” means. For this company, who previously rendered the works of Jacques Brel into something rather odd on a stage, musical reinterpretation seems as close as any description to describe this decidedly leftfield show. It is to the big west end productions what The Smiths were to Bros in the ’80s.
There’s no story to speak of – indeed there’s no dialogue or narrative either – so this show, like The Smiths’ music, is decidedly not for everyone. What we have instead is more a sequence of happenings set to music. After 90 minutes of these happenings I still had no clue why they’d happened, but maybe that’s just me.
The songs are presented with a backing rhythm track, a string quartet on stage and the actors, whose stylised movements and surefooted delivery offer interpretations of Morrissey’s musings – flights of fancy, even.
The melodies are of course instantly recognisable to anyone who’s ever had a penchant for ambiguous boys with daffodils, but here the reinterpretations draw on opera, flamenco and – shock, horror – show tunes to make a body of work that’s worth hearing in its own right as an album.
Which leaves me wondering why it wasn’t left as a record rather than allowed to take up stage space. Coupled with the live action before us, what we witness is often dark and frequently horrible, though there never seems to be rhyme nor reason to it all. A surreal performance dreamscape without interval, Some Girls combines a rabbit costume (hurrah!) and disconnected visuals, some superbly talented singers and taut directing to create something memorably baffling. It’s more live pop video than pop theatre.
The Smiths were always indie, so maybe Some Girls marks the birth of the indie musical. But for all the talent on display, and the lauded material plundered to produce this show, it’s difficult to recommend this over a night in with The Queen Is Dead on repeat play.