Entering the Fairfield Halls Ashcroft Theatre for the evening performance of “All The Fun Of The Fair” immediately gave a sense of time and place with a backdrop proclaiming The Wall Of Death/Levi's Funfair.
Along with the brooding, ‘bustling crowd’ ambience, courtesy of the production company’s sound engineer, the expectant hub-bub from the audience was almost palpable.
This added to the slightly tense atmosphere awaiting the ‘curtain up’ which was twenty minutes late due to technical difficulties heightening the expectant arrival of Mr Essex.
But was it worth the wait?
The answer to that was yes and no in equal measure.
Rather like a bag of Bassett’s there were allsorts on display opening with the spot-lighted Louise English whose personality, gypsy-styled Rosa linked the unravelling story-line.
Very much a Romeo and Juliet narrative based in the late 70s, the youthful-ish cast, with excellent performances from Tim Newman as the slightly ‘backward’ Jonny and Tanya Robb as the (main) love interest Alice, gave everything they could to a production predominantly featuring a plethora of David Essex hits including “A Winter’s Tale”, “Lamplight” and an exuberant “Hold Me Close”.
Now, as much as the music appealed I found myself being drawn to Ian Westbrook’s excellent set design with its clever three dodgem cars weaving effortlessly within the confines of the stage coupled with Ben Cracknell’s inventive use of fairy-lights.
I can see why the production was awarded the prestige of a West End billing but whether it has a longevity factor (possibly more so as the current touring show) is open to debate.