Crocodile Rock

October 25, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆    Strong performance

Traverse: Tue 25 Oct 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Crocodile Rock – at the Traverse for one performance only – is an affecting and well-judged piece of musical theatre, that only suffers from being stretched a little too far.

Originally a Play, Pie and a Pint production, Andy McGregor’s musical has been expanded and is presented by Sleeping Warrior in association with Beacon Arts Centre and Cumbernauld Theatre at Lanternhouse.

Stephen Arden in Crockodile rock. Pic Tim Morozzo

Crocodile Rock is an almost sung-through affair, with minimal spoken elements. Stephen Arden plays Stephen McPhail, a teenager in 1990s Millport (home of the painted rock of the title).

Troubled by his sexuality and an inability to fit in with his peers, Stephen feels fated to spend his time working in the family pub and B&B, until a meeting with a ‘seven-foot-tall’, Hammond organ-playing drag act from Barcelona.

Stephen’s story is told with wit and sympathy, with Arden supplying tunefulness, comic know-how and an easy rapport with the audience.

inventive direction

All of the other characters – the unsympathetic father, the put-upon mother, the swaggering teen who is the unworthy focus of young Stephen’s adoration – are conjured up by pithy writing, Arden’s versatility and McGregor’s own inventive direction. Ingrained and institutionalised homophobia, born out of repression and fear, are deftly sketched in.

Such economy only serves to point out the glaring faults in the piece’s second half. It may be as a result of being extended from PPP length to a more usual running time for an evening performance, but a play that gallops along for the first half an hour definitely limps towards the finish line.

Stephen Arden in Crockodile rock. Pic Tim Morozzo

The actual finale is convincingly glitzy, but there is more than one mis-step on the way to it. One heartfelt song about being yourself, finding your tribe and learning to fly would be an inspiration; a whole parade of them ends up as undramatically repetitive. It also brings into sharp focus the triteness of some of the lyrics, as well as the fact that such self-realisation is not as easy as musicals sometimes make it seem.

Arden’s performance remains first-rate, with stalwart backing from MD Andy Manning and fellow musicians Kim Shepherd and Simon Donaldson.

Kenny Miller’s set and Grant Anderson’s lighting are suitably flashy as well as thoroughly effective, and the whole production has a welcoming, inclusive feel.

Despite showing undoubted signs of a more perfectly-formed piece becoming twisted out of shape a touch, there is no doubt that the production’s heart is firmly in the right place. Its message is still a necessary one – however much things may have improved in recent years.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 25 October 2022
7.30 pm
Run ended, but on tour with:
A New Life
Wednesday 26 October 2022
7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Tour dates for both shows at  https://sleepingwarriortheatre.com

ENDS

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