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Bat Boy transforms reality into enchanting fantasy



 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by David Munro

BASED, apparently, on a true story about a half boy/half bat found in a cave, Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe have fashioned a gothic musical which transforms reality into fantasy.

The net result is a small and totally enchanting little show which is lost in the vastness of the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Bat Boy follows the bat boy’s life in a small American town from the time of his discovery until his death.

Taken into the home of the local vet, the boy, aided by the vet’s wife and daughter, tries to achieve normality and acceptance by the community.

During the course of this, he falls in love with his foster sister and, encouraged by the God Pan , seduces her.

Yes, it is that sort of show, verging on the edge of high camp, but never quite going too far OTT.

There are moments which, on paper, seem unpleasant, as the boy needs blood to survive, and his feeding habits are a little gruesome, but the direction and the cast manage to coast over them and retain the sympathy of the audience.

Deven May, the originator of the role of Bat Boy, or Edgar as he is called, makes him a charming, if pathetic anti-hero.

His vampiric tendencies are underplayed but you are never allowed to forget the beast below the surface, which makes his final acceptance of his nature touching but believable.

As his adoptive parents, John Barr and Rebecca Vere give excellent performances, showing, respectively, the hate and love which enable the boy to assimilate the conventions of normality without the loss of his basic nature.

Emma Williams makes Shelley, their daughter, whose swithering between dislike and sexual attraction makes the logical lead in to the seduction in the woods and her subsequent love for her foster brother.

It is a convincing performance of adolescent immaturity developing into an acceptance of responsibility.

The rest of the cast , which is a small one, play a multitude of characters depicting the small town environment where anything out of the ordinary is to be rejected.

This is what the musical sets out to portray, the need for acceptance of the stranger in your midst.

It is an old theme but in this instance, given the unlikely, if authentic, premise of the plot, it has an added poignancy when, having accepted the boy, they are induced by the machinations of his adoptive father to reject him.

The songs which tell a lot of the story, serve their purpose and are pleasant if not particularly memorable.

The direction, by Mark Wing-Davey, manages to disguise the fact that the stage is too large for the action and, with the minimum of scenery props, brings the small town atmosphere to life.

I only wish he had controlled his sound designer as the over amplification of the voices was distracting and unfair to the cast.

I hope that Bat Boy has come home to roost for a long time but, as I have said, I fear that he is in the wrong habitat , which is a pity as he provides a good evening's entertainment and deserves to be appreciated.

Bat Boy the musical by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe.
Director, Mark Wing-Davey; Choreographer, Lynne Page; Designer, Madeline Herbert; Lighting, Tony Simpson; Sound, Mike Walker; Fight Director, Terry King; Musical Director, Iain Vince-Gatt.
CAST: Deven May; Rebecca Vere; John Barr; Emma Williams; Andrew Bolton; Gareth Richards; Julie Jupp; Robyn Isaac; Maurey Richards; David Beckford; Robert Archibald; Tim Driesen; Thomas Goodridge; Rachel Lynes; Wyn Moss; Amanda Villamayer.
Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8DP
Mon – Sat: 7.45pm
Mat: Thurs and Sat: 3pm
Box Office: 0870 906 3798

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