Holy Crap! Who Are The Heather Brothers?
Written by: Tom Wright
Who are the Heather Brothers? It’s a question that’s been keeping me up at night. Ever since I was asked to review their latest musical, Holy Crap, I’ve been trapped in something of a Google wormhole.
To begin at the beginning: the Heather Brothers are, depending on who you ask, a musical writing duo/trio/quartet. Born in London, they grew up in Zimbabwe, where they spent their teenage years performing in a fraternal rock band. Again, depending on who you ask, they were variously known as: The Chequers, The Three People or Quiet World.
From there, they graduated into writing musicals, with their most successful being A Slice of Saturday Night (known in the U.S. as Club-A-Go-Go).
A sixties pastiche, it’s been performed over 400 times, ran on both the West End and Broadway, completed either two or three tours of Japan (depending on who…etcetera) and has been translated into nine languages.
I’ve literally never heard of it. The Brothers’ website throws up more questions than it does answers. It’s more 90s than a tamagotchi and the URL isn’t theheatherbrothers.com but phillipcrammond.com, apparently named after the guy who designed it.
A couple of clicks around phillipcrammond.com and I’ve arrived at a page titled “Labradoodle Information: The best of both breeds”.
All of which is a long way of saying that, I arrived at The Kings Head Theatre not really knowing what to expect. The performance was sold out and the bar attached to the theatre was heaving.
As I took my seat, a man turned to the woman next to him and enquired “do you know the Heather Brothers?”; her reply was a noise I can only describe as noncommittal. It seemed I was not alone.
The Brothers’ programme notes revealed that they were “back where it all began”; A Slice of Saturday Night had debuted at The King’s Head. More than two decades after that early success, was I about to witness a comeback smash hit?
Sadly, no. The show might not be dead on arrival but it is severely limping. The plot didn’t make much sense. In essence: Bobby De La Ray (John Addison), is an inscrutable Texan televangelist who uses mafia money to set up a Christian TV-Channel in the UK, God TV. When the station flops, he decides to broadcast porn instead. Well, sort of porn. Quasi-porn. Very safe, clothed, heterosexual porn. Short porn musicals that constitute about half of the show’s nearly 20 songs.
For some reason, these soft-core celebrations of awkwardly simulated fellatio are a hit with the British public, who sign up for paid subscriptions in their droves. Which is weird because (and I assume this is common knowledge), there is an ocean of porn out there on the internet. Mountains of porn. Literally more porn than you could ever watch, all of it free to view.
These kinds of plot holes are strewn so liberally throughout the narrative that you start to barely notice them. ‘Why?’ is a question you gradually learn not to ask. Things got especially confusing after an embarrassing episode in which I missed the interval bell. By the time I got back to my seat, the balaclava clad cast were thrusting Kalashnikovs into the air. I never did find out why. By that point, I’m not sure it mattered.
What makes things worse is that the cast are a talented bunch. In sweltering heats (and quite a lot of leather) they throw themselves into their roles. Addison’s Bobby Del Ray is energetically unhinged.
Gamely enforcing him are Rachel Marwood as rootin’-tootin’ Texan Christine Lafayette and Nuno Queimado as crude Italian stereotype, Vinnie Ginelli. Letitia Hector shows off an impressive singing voice as general goodie, Destiny Jackson, while Arvid Larson manages to bring some life to Rex Bedderman, a character whose defining trait is being a bit dim.
Most likeable character of the evening is a toss up between Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury Maher and Tickets, the Yorkshire Terrier he carried on stage with him before the show.
The King’s Head Theatre has a long and proud history of producing future West-End hits. It’s probably here worth remembering that there can be no hits without misses. Though Holy Crap undeniably misses its mark, I’ve no doubt that the team at The King’s Head will be back on winning form soon.
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, London N1 1QN
7th June – 8th July, Tuesday – Saturday 8.45pm, matinees Saturday & Sunday 4pm
10th June onwards £25 (premium); £19.50 (general); £18.00 (over 60s and equity); £15.00 (Students, under 18s and unemployed | www.kingsheadtheatre.com | 0207 226 8561
Photos: Paul Dyke
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