Therry Theatre
The Arts Theatre
Until 11 Jun 2022

Review by Fran Edwards

This production began life as a 1984 film called “A Private Function”, which in 2011 became a musical produced by Cameron Mackintosh and adapted from the screenplay by Alan Bennett. It was performed in London with the original book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, music by George Styles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe. Therry has presented the Australian premiere of this tale of austerity Britain. Directed by Ben Todd with musical direction by Katie Packer and choreography by Vanessa Redmond this story is set in 1947 Yorkshire, around the time of Princess Elizabeth’s engagement. It has heart and humour and a very amusing pig.

In the lead roles of Gilbert Chivers and his wife Joyce are Jared Frost and Trish Hart, both with impeccable pedigrees they bring the roles alive. Frost plays a charming and unassuming chiropodist, winning over the audience easily. Hart is his social climbing wife who pushes him to improve their status. Along with them comes Mother Dear, played with great comedy, by Caroline Adams, an audience favourite.

The trio of officials who stimy Gilbert’s efforts are played by Greg Janzow (Dr Swaby), Jon McKay (Mr Lockwood) and Craig Ellis (Mr Allardyce) and the plot entails these three conspiring with Matt Redmond (farmer Sutcliffe) to hide a pig to be killed for ‘a private function’. Their nemesis is Neville Phillis as Mr Wormold, the meat inspector, making sure, with positive delight, that the austerity rules are followed.

Nicholas Mitchell plays a beset police officer and Prince Philip to Grace Frost’s Princess Elizabeth, both suitably regal, and Cassidy Gaiter is the perfect brat as Veronica Allardyce. The title role was played by Betty herself thanks to the ministrations of John Duval, Don Oswald and Mark Rogers with assistance by Amy Rogers and Gemma Oswald, she is all personality.

Although the music won’t have you leaving the theatre singing, there are several fun pieces, “Magic Fingers”, sung by Kathy Driver (Mrs Roach,) Eve McMillan (Mrs Turnbull) and Natasha Scholey (Mrs Lester); “Pig, No Pig” by the Chivers family and “Betty Blue Eyes” by Frost and Ellis. The MD has done well with the full cast numbers but “Painting” didn’t work, for various reasons – and a rogue trombone was a distraction. The simple choreography worked well and stayed within the skills of the cast. The set worked well with an unpretentious painted backdrop that echoed the unassuming nature of the show itself.