wed 22/05/2024

We Will Rock You, London Coliseum review - the Queen musical returns, as ludicrous, dense and dreadful as before | reviews, news & interviews

We Will Rock You, London Coliseum review - the Queen musical returns, as ludicrous, dense and dreadful as before

We Will Rock You, London Coliseum review - the Queen musical returns, as ludicrous, dense and dreadful as before

Ben Elton’s script is back in the West End, and this time he stars, too

Ben Elton plays Pop, a Bohemian elderImages - Manuel Harlan

Twenty-one years ago, critics were alarmed by Ben Elton’s deranged musical We Will Rock You. But, despite the "staggeringly awful" reviews, the show somehow went on to have 12 long (and painful) years of West End success. So, here we are again. The car crash of a show is back for a summer run at the London Coliseum. But has it made any progress in its nine-year hiatus? Sadly not.

And in many ways, why should it? The Queen musical has collected more than its fair share of loyal devotees over the years. But, with a totally nonsensical plot, cringeworthy dialogue and songs shoehorned into the narrative by any means necessary, let’s not pretend that this is good theatre. It isn’t. It is quite terrible.

We’re somewhere in the near-ish, dystopian future. There’s robots and people who have lost their identities to evil tech. But fear not, two rebels – an overwhelmingly irritating all-American Galileo Figero (Ian McIntosh) and his sarcastic partner, Scaramouche (Elena Skye) – have decided enough is enough. The legend of We Will Rock You says that there is hope of a better life, built on the spirit of rock and live music. With the help of a group of rubbish tip dwellers named the Bohemians, they are ready to fight against the Killer Queen (Brenda Edwards) and her pathetic sidekick, Khashoggi (Lee Mead) to turn the myth into reality. If it sounds a little like an A-level theatre performance, you wouldn’t be far wrong.We Will Rock YouThe script is, maybe, the most ridiculous the West End has ever seen. But writer Ben Elton has now decided to not only direct this chaotic whirlwind, but make his acting debut as Pop – a Bohemian elder living on the dream of returning to a time of "real" music too. Perhaps he’s bitten off a little more than he can chew because his performance is more than lacking. There’s a mix of misjudged stand-up, embarrassingly unfunny asides and dated jokes (“You’ll awake the sleeping beast”). He just about makes it through his solo, "These Are the Days of Our Lives", which has him croaking like an aged frog. Yes, he’s self-aware, but it doesn’t make up for the fact he looks entirely out of place – even within this futuristic nightmare.

But surely the production is good, right? Well, not quite. Poor swirling projections and a band that is merely okay make the overall picture a sorry sight. The cast do their best, but there’s not much to work with. The audience do as we’re told, offering up supportive boos and hisses when the baddies grace the stage. But, if we’re honest, it is all out of pity.

Diehard Queen fans might still be won over. The songs are undeniably good tunes. On press night Brian May even gets up to do a guitar solo. But even as jukebox musicals go, this one is particularly shoddy and tasteless. How it has managed to scramble its way back into one of London’s major theatres, I’m not sure. Queen deserve to be remembered, they’re legends. But if it is a place onstage they’re after, they deserve more than this mess.

The cast do their best, but there’s not much to work with

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Why then does every performance conclude with a massive standing ovation from the audience who then leave with big smiles all over their faces?

I certainly didn't see a standing ovation... and I think most people were smiling because it was finally over!!

It is truly dreadful!

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters