Gin Craze is the tale of Mary, Lydia and Jack, and the gin sellers of Gin Lane. It is loud and bawdy, but undeniably hilarious! It tells the tale of these men and women with humour and heart. I don’t doubt that this show will become a firm favourite of musical lovers everywhere.
The set is very simple in its design consisting of plain, exposed scaffolding with the orchestra in full view. This works so well because the pace of the show isn’t hindered by overly elaborate scenery or curtain faffing as you tend to see in other musicals.
The show has a cast of eight actor/musicians who play multiple parts each; it is a true ensemble piece. Each member of the cast is a dynamic performer and accomplished musician of an incredible standard and this truly makes the show something spectacular. I initially thought that the cast has three male actors; only upon reading the programme did I realise that I had in fact been duped by Peter Pearson and his amazing accents.
From the opening scene, it is clear that this show is going to be absolutely hilarious. The four women start with an ode to gin in front of the curtain. It’s a witty and catchy number and the audience is captivated from the first note. Debbie Chazen catches your eye with her suggestive symbol playing in the opening number and continues to dominate scene after scene with her language and grotesque slapstick comedy.
As the curtain rises, we are introduced to Mary and her husband, and we realise that all is not as it seems. A pauper, Suki, speaks to Mary and Mary pretends not to know her. Her husband then asks if she has anything in her past that would bring shame on him and she denies having such a past. We are then transported back in time as Mary’s backstory unfolds. We see her pregnant, a servant dismissed from service because she is unmarried without any wages. All of this would be tragic if Paula James’ Mistress wasn’t so hilarious stealing the scene.
On the street, she meets Suki who offers gin for the baby to soothe her and then convinces Mary to give her the baby so that she might have a chance at a better life. Mary agrees and makes the heart-breaking decision to give her baby away. Aruhan Galieva’s delivery of ‘I am a mother’ is utterly harrowing and we see this decision haunt her for the remainder of the show.
The language used is descriptive and beautiful at times, while also often blunt, comedic and vulgar. Mary’s assertion that the competitor’s gin “tastes like foreskin cheese” makes me cringe and squirm in my seat. Her comedic timing in the delivery of this line has the whole auditorium roaring with laughter.
The music itself is masterfully written. It is such a vivid and colourful piece that succinctly sums up each narrative point. Lucy Rivers has truly created a masterpiece. My favourite song within the piece was ‘The problem of (not) having a cock’. Here we really got to see Alex Mugnaioni flex his comedic muscles as he and Paksie Vernon deliver this hilarious split scene number.
This show is fantastic, and I urge you to purchase a ticket before it is too late.
Gin Craze is playing at the Royal and Derngate until 31 July 2021. For more information and tickets, see the Royal & Derngate online.