Review: Tickle: The Musical

2 star rating
The weird 'sport' of 'competitive endurance tickling' provides a novel topic, but a flimsy plot and a lack of real comedic power fails to realise the inherent potential.
Tickle: The Musical at the King's Head Theatre

Photo credit: Peter Davies



Closes here: Saturday 26 October 2019

Author:
Chris Burgess

Composer:
Chris Burgess

Lyricist:
Chris Burgess

Director:
Robert McWhir

Cast:

Tina Tickle - Richard Watkins

Davina Diamond - Amy Sutton

Chris - James McDowall

Callum - Ben Brooker


Synopsis


Two good looking guys are made a curious offer: they can earn decent money from being ticklish.


Really? Yes, it's a sport; and 'it's not gay!'


Amazingly based on a true story, TICKLE - THE MUSICAL takes us into the strange, hilarious, twisted, and undeniably sexy world of competitive endurance tickling, where it's all about laughing and lasting longest, but apparently not about lust.


This adventure brings two mates closer together, but is it too close for comfort?


And who is 'Tina Tickle' who seems to hold all the strings?


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Wednesday 16 October 2019
Review star rating image

This is the UK premiere of a new musical which testifies - if any further evidence were required - that any subject has the potential to be turned into a musical.


Well, maybe not quite any subject, but this show certainly indicates that musical theatre can encompass some off-beat or even rather weird topics.


The title doesn't give you precise clarity about the exact focus of the plot since a 'tickle' could apply to many situations and storylines.


In fact, the endeavour homes in on the world of 'competitive endurance tickling', described here as a 'sport' and definitely not 'gay'.


I'm not sure that the International Olympic Committee is likely to approve this activity for inclusion in the quadrennial global championships any time soon, but a quick bit of research reveals there does indeed seem to be a 'sport' (perhaps loosely defined) in which tickling is the essential ingredient.


That actually forms a broadly interesting and novel feature for a theatrical production - and a musical format would not be excluded in principle as a means to examine the concept.


James McDowall's Chris and Ben Brooker's Callum are ordinary (but handsome) lads seduced with the lure of substantial monetary rewards to take part in tickling sessions against each other.


The competitive element is found in endurance, ie how long one man can suffer being tickled before saying "enough".


Richard Watkins as Tina Tickle in Tickle the Musical

Richard Watkins as Tina Tickle

Richard Watkins has some endurance of his own to overcome as Tina Tickle since he has to teeter around the stage on shoes that combine both platforms and high heels.


But Tina's actual role in the tickling business is ill-defined, though the character seems to be some kind of impresario of dubious morality, more eager to coin-in cash for the Tina Tickle Empire than promoting a competitive and, possibly, comedic sport.


The first song or two showed melodic promise, but ordinariness quickly took hold leaving the musical element floundering to make a significant impression.


Tickling on its own can't sustain the show, so the story falls back on some well-trodden plot elements such as the revelation that Callum is gay and that his motivation for taking part in the tickling matches is to provide funds for his aged nan who is suffering from cancer.


What the script really needs is a much clearer intent - either one which opts for raucous comedy alone, or one that combines more unique dramatic issues to offset or contrast with the obvious comic elements inherent in the subject.

Cast of Tickle: The Musical at the King's Head Theatre

Cast of Tickle: The Musical - King's Head Theatre


The musical has some appealing virtues in terms of overall design and production values, and the actors do their best with the musical numbers, the uninventive plot and the (rather forced) requirement to wander around in jock straps.


This venue is no stranger to extraordinary themes, nor to issues and concepts that provoke big, appreciative laughs from audiences.


But on this occasion the audience seemed as subdued as me.


And that's because Tickle: The Musical never really capitalises on the weirdness of the topic, relying on a flimsy plot that fails to deliver real comedic power or more inventive dramatic moments.



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