Arts Theatre, London WC2
Opened 24 June, 2008

Sometimes one’s response to a show can go far beyond mere dislike, to the point of fury that it ever got to see the light of a stage. I managed to cram the major indictments of All Bob’s Women into the 160 characters of a text message: “1) It’s at the Arts. 2) and 3) It’s an Italian musical 4) about a five-timing man, and 5) it thinks it can do it all in 70 minutes; 6) it can’t.” Given more space, I would have added that the cast include 7) an alumna of TV prison drama Bad Girls and 8) one of the Nancys from small-screen talent-search I’d Do Anything (on the basis of this show, yes, she certainly would), and that 9) it’s the kind of production where the offstage team get their biographies in the programme ahead of any of the performing “talent”, and the producers even give themselves a picture.
Now, none of these things is damning in itself, but when so many of them come together they amount to a strong circumstantial case, especially when found looming over a mangled corpse of a show like Michael W. Kelly’s adaptation of Romy Padovano’s musical. Looked at from another angle, its brevity is a positive mercy; but really, trying to fit in Bob/Rob/Ronnie/Roger/etc’s seduction and bedding of five women of radically different character, to sketch him and them out and find space for musing as well as his come-uppance in less than an hour and a quarter is ludicrous. Matters seldom even attain the depth of a comedy sketch. And that’s without even considering the musical numbers, because they simply aren’t worth considering (except to note the similarity of one to Diana Ross’s hit “I’m Still Waiting”) even when they can be made out; on press night, the actors were over-miked when speaking and way over-miked when singing. (The Arts only seats around 350 people.)
I simply can’t see what it’s for. It works neither as clever fun nor as mindless fun; its observations on the sexes are pitched at the level of the stereotypical Italian man, and consequently far below almost any real person, Italian or otherwise. In the opening minutes, Bob delivers an incomprehensible fable beginning, “Madness wanted to play a game...” Well, Critical Tolerance pelted out the door and didn’t stop running.
Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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