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Theatre Review: Bingo! ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that's 'moderately fun' but 'manages to disappoint'.

How rare it is to see a new full-length production with a mainly female cast, and rarer still for such a production to have original songs. With a cast of six terrific performers and a crackerjack production team, the odds looked in favour of a great night out.

Sadly, Bingo! manages to disappoint.

We’re introduced to our characters quickly: the staff who run the bingo night and a few regulars convinced the night is going to finally pay out. But things aren’t what they seem: plans for a hen night to Las Vegas have been sabotaged, and many relationships that seem solid are on rocky ground. When someone manages to win big, things begin to shatter as desperation, betrayal and passion scream out.

The promise of a great show is there. Each character offers interesting opportunity, socially and comedic, and setting a production in a bingo hall is a terrific idea. Instead, what we have here is a confused book that can’t make up its mind when it wants to be funny, tragic or poignant. Writers Anita Vettesse and Johnny McKnight know how to write clever lines, but they seem to have lost their way in plotting, particularly in the overlong and unearned dark second half.

Many of the musical numbers are surprisingly quite brief: mostly short ditties that punctuate rather than elaborate. Vettesse and McKnight’s lyrics supply some of the best moments of the production, aided by Alan Penman’s catchy music and the company’s full commitment to each number. Oddly, however, long stretches of time pass between numbers—a shame.

With further work, Bingo! could blossom into a success—the potential is there. However, what we have is an overlong, undercooked production salvaged by a game cast who have a terrific time with their characters and the situation they find themselves in. It’s moderately fun, but it really should have been a winner.

Bingo! tours Scotland until April 21st.

Tags: theatre

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