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Betty Blue Eyes, Novello Theatre, London

Michael Coveney
Friday 15 April 2011 00:00 BST

Just in time for the royal wedding, we've tightened our belts, arranged a street party and put on a really good show. Not only that, the happy couple have moved among us and shared in the national mood.

Yes, the Queen and Prince Philip really do make an unscheduled appearance in the front room of Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers. The year is 1947 and times are hard. So the Yorkshire village has arranged a banquet and plans to defy the meat inspector by killing a pig.

In terms of musical comedy, too, we have gone back in time to a pastoral idyll before Lionel Bart and Andrew Lloyd Webber did their best to bring us up to date. The source is Alan Bennett's 1984 film, A Private Function, in which Michael Palin played the meek chiropodist Gilbert and Maggie Smith his Lady Macbeth of Ilkley.

Richard Eyre's production has dextrous efficiency on a design by Tim Hatley that takes us effortlessly from backstreets to a tea shop and the butcher's and back to the Chilvers', where Betty is smuggled and starts emitting methane, forcing Gilbert and Joyce to sing with clothes pegs on their noses, which must be a first.

Ah, Betty, the star of the show: an animatronic pink beast, controlled remotely, but mostly static in her tin bath and mobile only in the eye, jaw and fluttering eyelash department.

The composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe have written a series of charming songs, with nostalgic lilt and literate rhyming that explain the effect Betty Blue Eyes has on stout-hearted men.

The Bennett screenplay has been adapted by Americans Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman and there's a much happier ending. Reece Shearsmith and Sarah Lancashire are perfect as the Chilvers and Betty is their piggy in the muddle, all right.

To 22 October (0844 482 5170).

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