Review: Guido!

Suzie Burlton 22 June 2012


ADC Lateshow, 11pm, until Sat 24th June


The first scenes of Mr “confuses musical with shit” Carpenter’s latest offering were a bit lame. Jokes about marionettes impeded the flow of the script, and the writer Daniel Kaes seems not to have realised that everyone at Cambridge has read Horrible Histories too. The singers and the over-miked band were out of sync and there was a faint air of empathetic embarrassment hanging over the audience.

However, around halfway through, it suddenly became rather fun. The plot started rolling along without any stilted “Let’s explain the history to the audience who don’t know who Protestants are” dialogue, the songs got better and the cast strangely all switched on together. It’s hard to pinpoint what changed that made it cohere, but I think it was actually a slightly hairy moment when the cast got tangled up with their lines. They seemed to find it as funny as we did and stopped being quite so repressed, instead embracing the silliness of it all.

The cast, really, is what saved this show. They are all good singers (and Maria Montague is absolutely cracking) and good actors (particularly Freddie Crossley’s comic timing) and were able to give energy and some emotional to a script which often felt very derivative, of Blackadder mainly. The lyrics are much stronger than the dialogue, with some delicious wordplay which was sometimes sadly lost in the group scenes. The music is good, although the consciously modern interludes were unnecessary and sometimes irritating. It’s not frightfully memorable – I now cannot remember any of the tunes – but it mostly works and it’s both pleasingly stirring and wry in turns. Strangely lacking incidental music for scene changes, though, which were hardly epic but could have done with a little something.

Particular high points were: the duet between the priest (Christabel Clark) and Lord Monteagle (Alistair Cannon) which was stunningly performed and perfectly written for that moment in the play; and the ‘Innuendo’ song in which Guido (Robin Morton) learns to be naughty with surprising gusto.

‘Guido!’ has a long way to go, which is why I can only conscience two stars, but I believe it can get there. It is rickety, as May Week shows tend to be, and the cast need to get into it much earlier. It’s also far too long – nearly an hour and a half – and I can see much that could be cut. The writer and composer need to pitch it to their audience, because it is not a new idea and not good enough for its done-already-ness to matter. But if you are around at night with nothing to do and you’re already a bit drunk, try and sneak in at quarter to one when it all gets exciting. Don’t worry about missing the first half because you all know the plot…

Suzie Burlton