31 March 2016

Bad Girls was another excellent musical from the Union Theatre

I had never seen the TV show Bad Girls and I am not sure that I had even heard about it so that was not my reason for going to see the musical based on it. My excuse was the usual one, I wanted to go to the theatre that evening and in looking through the listings of my favourite theatres I came across Bad Girls at the Union Theatre. I had seen many good musicals there, and other plays too, so it was an easy decision to part with £20.

I had been at the Park Theatre in the afternoon and that worked brilliantly as that finished early enough for me to have a coffee there before walking for an hour of so down from Finsbury Park to Southwark arriving there just before 6:30pm when the box office opened enabling me to get a coveted first ten ticket.

That then left me with an hour to eat something in the pub across the road and to enjoy a well deserved pint of beer to refresh me after the walk.

It is always a surprise to see how the seats are arranged at the Union Theatre and as one of the first people in (that's what a top ten ticket gets you) I had to make a quick assessment on which seats are likely to be the best. This time the seats were arranged in two long rows with the performance area in the middle. I took a seat in the front row half way down on the right hand side. It proved to be a good choice.

Bad Girls told the stories of several women in prison and of some of the people charged with looking after them. There were a lot of characters to engage with and several plot lines to follow and that made it a rich experience. I was really interested to see how things would work out for them all.

This was not a sympathetic look at prison life either. The women definitely deserved to be in there because of the seriousness of the crimes that they had committed, though there were sometimes some mitigating circumstances that the legal system was not able to make much allowance for. Some of the prison officers were not very nice either, particularly the man who thought he was entitled to sex with the women prisoners and got his entitlement regularly.

This was a women's prison so it was expected that there would be a relationship between two women somewhere, though which two it was came as something of a surprise, and for the second musical in a row at the Union the prettiest song of the evening was a gay love song.

The rest of the music was pleasing too and there was a good mix of solo, group and chorus singing which utilised all of the voices and played with their combinations. The balance between the songs and also between the songs and the speech worked very well; the songs were part of the story and there were enough of them for this to be a true musical (rather than a play with songs).

All of the story threads progressed nicely and I was quickly engaged with both the plots and the characters. This was set in a prison after all so there was lots of grimness and there was never going to be a fairy-tale level happy ending but it still managed to be uplifting and refreshing.

The Union Theatre has a wonderful habit of finding unusual and little-known musicals and staging them brilliantly. Bad Girls was simply excellent.

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