Reviewed by Thomas Symington.
The effervescent Bede thrills in an hour of brilliantly self-aware, song-based comedy which is sure to excite punters with even the remotest passion for musical theatre. She has been in shows on BBC, Netflix and even won the BAFTA Rotcliffe New Writing award last year for her script Baby. However, she never quite made it as the West End star she dreamed of becoming, telling the audience there is hope yet since she has written no less than forty-five musicals. The story of her desire to fulfil this dream is brightly conveyed through a series of songs and stand-up with the hilarious subtext of a delusional washed-up actor.
She invites her audience to “check out her range” in the opening track, and her training in musical theatre, although being parodied, is shrewdly employed. The material for the show focuses on her experiences the music theatre world, a highlight being a song personifying a white posh girl trying to be cast in Hamilton. Her brief moment of stardom in the small-time 00s girl band ‘Cherry Falls’ is hilariously reflected on and segues into more pop-parody-esque numbers. She creates the impression that she hasn’t quite moved on and ruthlessly satirises this sickly-sweet era of pop. Bede is strongest on material about the expectations of women in the music and musical theatre industry, as well as wider feminist topics including a song about mansplaining. In a time where we are increasingly aware of the treatment of young women in these industries, her character feels believably damaged by her being cast from the limelight as quickly as she stepped into it.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that Bede is having fun and her playful parodies offer punters more for their money than conventional musicals at the festival.
Jenny Bede: The Musical runs at Just the Tonic at The Mash House: Just the Cask Room until 25th August.