Arts: Theatre: Blame it on the boredom

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The Independent Culture
THE ONE thing you can say about Boogie Nights is that it has absolutely no shame. Before the curtain rises, the audience is greeted by Dean, the show's very own warm-up act, who ensures that we're going to have a great night out by pelting us with skinny-fit Boogie Nights T-shirts from the royal box. But don't worry if you don't catch them, as the CD, baseball cap, mug, key-ring and pompon (and plenty more) are all available after the show. This isn't a show, it's a shopping opportunity.

The programme also mysteriously credits someone as the "script associate". What on earth did he do? The major writing, er, honours, go to Jon Conway, who also directed it, and it's no coincidence that, according to the programme, his "favourite form of entertainment is pantomime".

Clearly, Christmas has come early this year, which explains the one-dimensional so-called "acting" on display, and the wholesale employment of stereotypes.

To be fair, the producers aren't trying to rival Chekhov, but they've billed this as the Seventies Musical, so we've a right to expect something dramatic. In fact, it's just an excuse to perform a succession of disco hits. Thrown out your record player, can't afford to buy all your favourites on CD, and too old to go to a retro club? Why not shell out for an evening of cover versions fronted by Shane Richie? Here's why not.

The story-line - "plot" is too strong a term - exists in a nightmare world between the cartoon stories of a teen romance magazine and Loaded. Shane, sorry, Roddy, is in a long line of cheeky chappies such as Tommy Steele, but with rather more crotch-grabbing. Jobless and feckless, he dreams of singing with a band - but at least he's got his bird, Debs, whom he hangs out with down the disco back in the Seventies, alongside his best mates Trish, Tel and Dean.

Unfortunately, Debs is pregnant, but she's scared to tell Roddy because, as he tells us, he's after "adventure, freedom and a smile on my face" (nudge, nudge).

Enter Lorraine, singer with The Love Machine, who just happen to perform all your favourite numbers. She's having problems with the bad-guy bandleader and part-time drug-dealer, Spencer. You can guess the rest, although you may not be prepared for the lazy storytelling and the lowest-common-denominator dialogue. Here's Debs, asking Trish about her nerdy boyfriend's sexual expertise: "Has he been through your front door and rung the bell a couple of times?"

Worst of all is that, though Roddy is shown up as a selfish pig, Richie - who has acknowledged that this is somewhat autobiographical - encourages us to sympathise with his wide-boy thoughtlessness. Also, a spurious Village People medley notwithstanding, all references to gays are openly homophobic.

In the end, despite the hardworking supporting cast's high-energy dancing (with people such as Simon Smith, who deserves better), the biggest Seventies influence is that this tackily staged story with songs attached reminds you of nothing but a tawdry version of the playlets at the end of Crackerjack.

David Benedict