Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Polly Coco & Co
Venue: George Square 2
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Hooked is about a man, Ben (Jason Langley) hiding from his real life; addicted to his job, drugs and a Romanian lap dancer Monique (Lucy Smethurst), cheating on his wife, Emma (Jessica Sherman) then cheating death and more. This is all quite a lot to take in little over an hour but somehow Hooked, framed around a barrage of catchy numbers, revealing costumes and a passionate and committed cast manages to balance sexy with heartfelt, creating a story worth telling and a musical worth seeing.
New musical theatre is hard to quantify and when a musical which comes from a team who has never actually written a musical before, but rather from Matthew James and Nick Hale, the brains behind the Bacardi and Guinness commercials and Rik Mayall’s writing partner Max Kinnings makes it even more difficult. There is nothing to worry about in the case of Hooked though. All the elements are there; strong songs that propel the story forward, an accomplished and talented cast, an interesting storyline that is not completely predictable, strong choreography and soap opera style content delivered with passion and a great deal of enthusiasm.
It would be nice to see this musical fleshed out a little to two hours, to allow some of the more soap opera parts of the plot time to sink in and mature. Everything happens a little too fast in a very short space of time, which, although punchy means that there is less time to appreciate the fantastic songs all of which stand alone and would be at home on I-pods everywhere. Emma and Monique are vastly different and both are in love with the same man, however with a bit more time to develop as characters they might seem less two dimensional and the storyline would become a little more believable. However in saying this it is clear that the performers are committed to their characters and draw the audience into their stories and heartbreak and the wave carries the audience with it all the way to the closing number.
This musical could have turned out sleazy and not at all meaningful, written by three men and more about the girls showing off a bit of flesh, however the female characters are the ones that shine out brightly in this show. Lucy Smethurst is charming as Monique balancing the right level of sultry other woman with fragile vulnerability. Smethurst showcases great vocal skills, singing with a thick Romanian accent and delivering all her songs with power and passion especially the heartbreaking Don’t Let Me Down, sung in duet with Langely and the beautifully sung Satellite. Manal El-Feitury is excellent as the lead lap dancer Odette, and manages to convey a great deal about her character despite her limited time on stage. Her subtly and attention to detail in the role means that this is one character that deserves more of a plotline and something that could be extended if the show was longer. El-Feitury combines mother hen with sex goddess and leaves her audience wanting to know more about her relationship with the club owner Parnell and her songs Ready to Roll and Where the Pleasure Lies showcase her sultry voice.
Another under used role is Angel played by the entertaining Laura Bailey. She is used more for moving set around than in the actual storylines, which ensures that the production flows but means that we never find out much about her. When on stage however she commands attention and is one to watch for the future. Jessica Sherman shines as the wife Emma and a clear stand out number is her angry and emotional delivery of Written on the Wall, to Ben, ironically sung in the waiting room of a counsellor. Her final words to him as she pulls off her ring, f**ck you, is spat out with force and she is completely believable as the wronged wife.
Jason Langley is accomplished both as a singer and performer as the spiralling out of control Ben, but perhaps lacks a certain life experience to truly convey the weight this role requires. In saying this his voice is addictive to listen to and his delivery of jazz/swing number What I’m Looking For, can’t help but put a smile on your face. Terence Burns is perfectly cast as the sleazy club owner Parnell. His scenes with Monique are particularly convincing causing hair to stand up on the back of the neck at his disturbing and realistically confronting behaviour.
Director Anna Ostergren has ensured the production is tastefully presented to appeal to both sexes and uses the space of George 2 effectively however the nightclub scenes work better than the more intimate scenes in Emma and Ben’s home. Rebecca Reaney has created interesting choreography for the dancers and there is a great deal of room for more of the same within the production if there was a little more time to work with. The only thing truly lacking is a rocky backing band as the click track doesn’t quite do this show the justice it completely deserves.
The whirlwind of sex, drugs, high class hookers, throw in a splash of murder and a baby and you have an addictive concoction coupled with a beautiful and exceptionally talented cast. This is one musical you won’t be able to get enough of, and at the late night hour of 11:15pm there is more than enough time to go and enjoy the town after seeing this wild and very different style of musical theatre.
If one night of Hooked is not enough for you the cast are also performing at the Hard Rock Cafe, Coyote Ugly style rocked up versions of the songs for a 45 minute set Monday-Thursday in Edinburgh. There is most certainly a future for Hooked in London, original and vastly different to anything else out there at the moment, life after Edinburgh looks bright.
Catch Hooked at 11:15pm nightly at George 2 until 30st August.