Edinburgh Fringe 2015
This is a gentle musical hour and a bit spent meeting an ordinary man who has captured the votes and mood of the disenfranchised of the UK. We begin with his belief that the Conservative Party no longer represented what he wished it to. We see him taking over this one issue party leading to winning a general election. Then his party makes decisions which may not have been what he meant but is what is inevitable in following such a myopic political vision. Joining the political elite he unites to defeat them but ends with the hilarious party song on the back of which he has become a political phenomenon.
We begin with a Europop anthem which is revealed as Nigel’s nightmare. Once he realises that he should appeal to the masses he takes himself off on his John Major style soap box but is hardly listened to. Having wondered where his political allegiance should lie he becomes leader of the rag bag bunch that grows to become his movement. With such musical numbers as Bongo Bongo Land and Ordinary Man as well as cameo appearances from Nicola Sturgeon and supporting parts from Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg, David Cameron and the lad from the comprehensive, Ed Milliband we trump along to election victory and Nige as PM. Having won, his party then ditch the spots and camouflage and become strident through strumpeting Johnny Foreigner off their land. Nige creates a new coalition that bounces back.
This was a musical that was both properly written and extremely well performed. If the political parties were looking for people to write populist ditties, they could do no worse than employ Hell Bent. The songs may be based on standards and there may be little by way of originality in the dots but there was plenty of pithy commentary and a warning that drips from a poison pen held by the targets of this performance.
The performers, particularly the lead, were well judged with tremendous cameos from Boris and Nicola. It was a sold out performances with solid performances. Some of the musical set pieces were well judged and impeccably performed. This was a show aware of it being light entertainment and comfortable within its own skin whilst thrusting out a commentary that hit the right note and the correct elements of sarcastic wit.
The costumes added beautifully to the performances and between a barber shop quartet to Morris dancers there was plenty of references running round my mind as I watched. At no time though did I feel I was being preached to and on almost every level this worked.
Writing which is crisp, music which is recognisable, performances that are plausible and a message with which it is difficult to argue, Hell Bent have a brilliant piece of commentary that should run, run and run.