The good news is that, in the hands of the Anonymous Society, Morrissey and Johnny Marr's songs have stayed largely intact. While the orchestration took some interesting liberties, drawing on flamenco, opera and Forties show-tunes, the melodies were instantly recognisable and given a new dimension by being sung in several different voices. Indeed, the music was by far the best part of an otherwise bewildering and frequently toe-curling production.
There was plenty of drama, though who knows to what end? The show opened with a distraught-looking man in a bunny suit sitting at a dinner table. Across the stage was a woman typing. She was joined by a redhead in a cocktail dress, who launched into "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me". By the end of the song, I was none the wiser as to who these people were and what they meant to one another, and when the curtain came down I was still drawing a blank. With no dialogue and no discernible narrative, they could have thrown us a few clues. But no: for the most part, the stage was cluttered with people, all intent on their own silly dramas. Men undressed then dressed again while women lurked in corners. In the first two numbers alone, the bunny man was murdered twice.
If there was any point to this it was perhaps in harnessing Morrissey's themes and using them as a launch pad forflights of fancy. The line "My only weakness is a listed crime" was uttered by a man who we'd seen with his head up a woman's skirt; "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" seemed to articulate a post-coital breakdown of communication.
Elsewhere, amid the heightened melodrama, it was impossible to make sense of what we were seeing. According to the programme, the director, Andrew Wale, on being asked what he thought of using Morrissey and Marr songs in a piece of musical theatre, remarked: "That's the worst idea I've ever heard." He wasn't wrong. Next time he should listen to his instincts.
To 23 July (0870 050 0511). A version of this review has run in some editionsReuse content