University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Has-been has been to Brighton

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Oct 13, 2008

Will David Essex’s comeback musical impress Alex Godbold and Becca Turton

This Monday, Brighton’s Theatre Royal was transformed into a dazzling, smoke filled fairground for the opening night of David Essex’s “All the Fun of the Fair”. For those who don’t know, David Essex was a “hearthrob” of the 70s (ask your mum!) who had a major hit with the song “Gonna Make You A Star”.

The story-line is in some respects reminiscent of ‘Romeo and Juliet’; the plot follows a doomed love affair between Jack, the fairground owner’s son, and Alice, the over-protected daughter of a local thug. The action progressed slowly and fell into a pattern of alternating between sad and up-beat songs, which grew predictable. Nonetheless, what the play lacked in momentum it made up for in scenery. Bright fairground lights surrounded the stage, smoke filled the auditorium and carousel horses dropped from the ceiling to create a spectacular backdrop to the action.

Highlights included the musical number, “Hold Me Close”, during which the actors drove three dodgem cars around the stage. Female fans in particular were delighted when Essex donned his leathers and sat astride his “Silver Dream Machine” (aka his motorbike) for an up-beat, strobe lit number.

In rare but very successful moments, the play did break away from its obvious structure and the mood changed completely. More aggressively dramatic songs like “Street Fight”, for example, saw the story’s villains Harvey and Druid destroying the fair whilst wearing Clockwork Orange-esque clown masks. This created a real sense of unease among the audience, foreshadowing the play’s somewhat startling and unexpected final scene.

Needless to say, we were the youngest audience members there and the auditorium was packed with women (and some reluctant looking partners) who clearly remembered Essex from his heyday. Therefore “Rock On” provoked lots of laughter, as David Essex reminisced with the audience about his long, dark curly locks – his signature look from back in the day!

If musicals are your thing, then “All the Fun of the Fair” is definitely worth considering for its high-energy numbers and spectacular scenery. If you happen to be a David Essex fan, then it will not disappoint – Essex’s performance was met by a standing ovation from the audience, leaving two slightly bemused but nonetheless happy reviewers!

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