The 60 plus hours of Breaking Bad sets a new standard for epic drama, and Walter White is the iconic tragic figure of the early 21 st century. He and the damaged, beautiful Jessie Pinkman are the Lear and Cordelia of our age.
Reimagined as a musical comedy by Rob Gathercole, one of a talented band of mostly Rose Bruford alumni, the show manages to combine the breathless power or the original with a comedy homage that respects and enhances its dramatic punch.
The work oozes craftsmanship and attention to detail. Matt Tweddle has plainly spent hours before a rehearsal room mirror, perfecting not only the close facial expressions of Walter, but also his body language, awkward and neurotic at first, becoming hypnotically menacing as he morphs into the evil Heisenberg. Rebecca Levy (the sole Mountford graduate) sparkles as Jesse, and the relationship between them fizzes with a sexual tension, only implicit in the original.
Taken at a breakneck speed, but never feeling rushed, much of the narrative is carried by the songs, dialogue is sparse. The cast are all multi instrumentalists and simultaneously form the onstage backing band. whilst switching seamlessly between many roles, one loses count, but the versatile Olivia Warren and Edward Hole probably jointly hold the record. Her wheelchair-bound Hector Salamanca (your name rings a bell) and his butch drag version of Jane (what shall we do with this heroin to keep it safe) are highlights. Puppets backed by a Mariachi band provide a whistle-stop tour of season three. A silent movie tells of the train heist. Scott Brooks excels as Hank, the chauvinistic DEA agent, his accent and movement is again spot on.
The writer and producer Gathercole is suitably sleazy as the comedy lawyer Saul, and hilarious as the neo-Nazi Todd, the whole gang being played as moustache twirling Victorian villains. But it is his puppetry and portrayal of Teeny Weeny Walter, played as a mockney Tiny Tim, that steals the show, and hogs most of the best lines.
This is writing of the highest quality, executed with panache and vigour. Gathercole is not just a master of parts, but also how to combine them. Virtuosity serves plot. Egos are left at the door. The company is one. Movement is excellent throughout, dance (Levy again) serves and propels the narrative. Songs are conceived and executed as part of the plot, with leitmotif reprises at dramatically appropriate stages.
Absurdist juxtaposition, hand-held props, painted cardboard backdrops, blocking, lighting and design are all part of a greater whole.
Stands comparison with Book of Mormon with a cast that are already, individually, on the cusp of greatness. See this show early, see it often and you will be dining out on the experience for years to come.
Review by Laura Thomas
When milquetoast chemistry teacher/car wash attendant Walter finds out that he has incurable lung cancer, he turns to cooking crystal meth in order to provide for his family and pay his medical bills. A brilliant concept – but Breaking Bad is pretty bloody long, and it gets awfully serious. Well, Say My Name! – The Unauthorised ‘Breaking Bad’ Parody Musical condenses the story of everyone’s favourite 62 hour bingefest into a 90 minute musical comedy. The show is performed by a cast of 6 actor-musicians who will play, sing and rattle through all 5 seasons, and have you laughing all the way.
Rob Gathercole, who conceived the show and wrote the music and lyrics, was inspired to write the show when he finished his second viewing of Breaking Bad, and realised that no-one else had written a musical version yet. “I’m such a massive fan of the show, and can think of no better way to pay tribute to it than by shamelessly ripping it off and adding loads of jokes and songs.”
Say My Name! – The Unauthorised ‘Breaking Bad’ Parody Musical
Music & Lyrics Rob Gathercole
Book Rob Gathercole & The Company
Cast Matt Tweddle as Walter/Others
Rebecca Levy as Jesse/Others
Olivia Warren as Skyler/Others
Scott Brooks as Hank/Others
Edward Hole as Tuco/Others
Rob Gathercole as Saul/Others
Venue Theatre N16, 5 Ashley Road, London N17 9LJ
Running Time 90 mins
Age Range 14+
October 14th – November 2nd, Theatre N16