Bluff is a new musical from Matthew Cavendish and Ed Zanders that is designed to be listened to. Written especially for radio, the one act show is perfect to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Director Ellie Coote and sound designer Charlie Smith have evidently worked in tandem to create a piece that fizzes through your speakers – evoking elaborate dance routines, epic storms and more.
The plot, concerning perpetual underdog Alec Bonum and his nemesis Shirley Judge who – like many of the inhabitants of Paradise – has a flair for embellishment, becomes a tad repetitious and the central characters would benefit from a little development to allow them to elicit more empathy. That said the music is richly orchestrated, with Smith and Zanders working magic to make the eight-piece orchestra sound much bigger as they bring Zanders’ nostalgia tinged score to vivid life.
Transitions between scene and song are always tricky to navigate in musicals and here they are especially exposed, some moments flow effortlessly whilst others highlight the gear changes. The cast are well matched conveying character and scenario with just their voices and glossing over the clunkier lyrics and moments of uneven dialogue.
Alex Young relishes her turn as Shirley’s mother, Marion Judge, providing comedic relief as she gives Hyacinth Bucket (of Keeping Up Appearances fame) a run for her money in extreme pronunciation. Young’s scene stealing song with a chorus of voles is something to be heard.
After the challenges of the pandemic and the desire for entertainment that could be safely enjoyed a radio musical with a heartfelt message that “anything is possible if you just dream hard enough” might be just the tonic.
Reviewer: Clare Chandler
Reviewed: 17th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★