Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

He stoops to conquer ... Hunchback is a hit for Theatre at the Mill

The bells: The cast of Hunchback: The Musical
The bells: The cast of Hunchback: The Musical

Victor Hugo's Gothic classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame isn't perhaps the most seasonal of tales, but in the raunchy and rocking Hunchback: The Musical, Newtownabbey's Theatre at the Mill has come up with a real Christmas cracker.

The audience at last night's opening performance may have been expecting a tragic, sombre affair along the lines of The Phantom of the Opera, but what they got was faster, filthier and a lot more fun.

From the moment a trio of nuns in sparkling habits took their position as the sort of Greek chorus Mel Brooks might approve of, it was clear we were in less than serious territory.

It's safe to say no other Christmas show will give you a soldier character named Private Parts, a captain singing about "the men you have under you" or buxom beauties that could have stepped straight out of Hill's Angels.

As ever with his productions, Ballyclare-born writer and director Paul Boyd entwined a compelling narrative with saucy, sassy songs and imaginative choreography.

This wasn't quite on a Molly Wobbly's Tit Factory level of smut, but there were flashes of everything from the The Two Ronnies to Blackadder in the innuendo-laden musical numbers, the slapstick physical gags and the broadly written characters.

Yet although Hunchback: The Musical was played principally for laughs, it could be dark or sentimental when it needed to be.

Christopher Finn's acrobatic turn as Quasimodo gave us the archetypal sympathetic monster, while Ciara Louise Baxter's moving turn won the audience's hearts as Esmerelda.

And as if that wasn't enough, the show has the best 'bells' pun you're ever likely to hear in a Hunchback of Notre Dame adaptation.

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