A reviews round-up for Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre in London.
The show premiered at Birmingham Rep earlier this year, directed by Birmingham Rep Artistic Director Sean Foley (The Upstart Crow, The Play What I Wrote), and is written by Al Murray (The Pub Landlord), Matt Forde (The Political Party) and Sean Foley.
The musical features over 100 puppets of the great and the not so good!
In the show, Tom Cruise is tasked by His Majesty The King to create the UK’s very own ‘Magnificent Seven’ of celebrity misfits – Tom Cruise, Greta Thunberg, Meghan Markle, Tyson Fury, RuPaul, Angela Rayner and Idris Elba – to save the nation from a cabal of dark forces seeking to destroy it – that’s all the usual suspects. And James Corden. They are joined by: Ant & Dec, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Keir Starmer, Stormzy, Vladimir Putin, The Tory Party Cabinet and many many many many many more.
The TV show ran for 18 series and won numerous BAFTA and Emmy awards, with the show returning to ITV in three popular specials.
Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image The Musical is running at the Phoenix Theatre to 26 August 2023.
Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image The Musical reviews
"I wasn’t expecting this to be so outrageously entertaining"
"Maybe it was the dancing penis routine that won me over. Perhaps it was Jacob Rees-Mogg as a Praying Mantis. Or Suella Braverman becoming aroused by thinking about deportation. Despite fearing the worst, Spitting Image in the rubbery flesh proved to be shockingly funny. I had not expected it to be this entertaining."
"The pace is so fast there is no chance of boredom. By the time you have tittered at Carrie Johnson’s talking breasts, the cast, controlled discreetly by puppeteers, is onto the next scene."
"The script is largely pre-recorded, but newsroom inserts offer flexibility for topical additions."
"It tries to get a little more serious towards the end, with a visual montage of Westminster fails and a hint of something more sinister around the corner. But while Spitting Image was once known for its biting political barbs, this version is strongest on simple, brainless belly laughs."
"Funny and a little nostalgic"
"Ambitious stage outing for the familiar puppets with every bar raised except perhaps the satirical"
"Several coronation-based sight-gags have been added, including a sword-wielding Penny Mordaunt, while Nicola Sturgeon is now on the run from the police. Sadly, unashamed Met officers now get their own number with a musical credit to Chas’n’Dave. Otherwise, the satire is best when it is at its most surreal. Carrie Johnson singing with a chorus of giant penises stands out, as does Paddington reimagined as a bug-eyed cocaine bear."
"The rest is fairly predictable celebrity satire – funny and a little nostalgic, with a few familiar musical numbers with heavily re-jigged lyrics to help pick up the pace."
"But authors Al Murray, Matt Forde and Foley will need to keep the script bang up-to-date on a weekly basis to maintain the humour. And perhaps the antics of rogue royals, narcissistic actors and self-serving politicians have become so much the norm that this form of satire no longer serves its purpose."
"A cringey ‘PC-gone-mad’ flop"
"This stage outing feels like it’s squarely aimed at the show’s original fanbase"
"Are you feeling a bit queasy at the general state of British politics? You may well find a degree of relief at Spitting Image The Musical, but much like a dose of heartburn remedy, it offers only temporary distraction from your symptoms rather than probing into any deeper cause."
"It’s inevitably going to be tough to stage a political satire that feels relevant, given that politics moves fast and making a musical takes time. This show’s heavyweight crew of creatives includes Al Murray, Sean Foley, Matt Forde and original Spitting Image creator Roger Law: their experience shows in a cannily crafted plot designed to stay approximately timely, while giving as many different puppets an airing as possible."
"... this show frequently gets mangled by weighty political issues it’s not strong enough to grapple with."
"This show would probably play better to a Christmas crowd, as a cheery end-of-year revue for an audience softened by mulled wine and nostalgia. Right now, it feels like a lovingly crafted, highly skilled distraction from the political issues it should be making us care about."
"This stage version of the satirical institution is best at its most caustic"
"Gamely, writers Al Murray, Matt Forde and Sean Foley – who doubles as director – feed a few new lines into this West End transfer, which features real-life puppets and pre-recorded voiceovers. But as the news cycle rolls oppressively on, the feeling lingers that this is a show permanently destined to be a little out of date."
"Oh, and it’s a musical – mostly reworked existing songs. Those obvious jokes are many and tiresome, and seem like an excuse to stuff as many familiar faces onto the stage as possible. And yet there are moments when the satire is really quite thrillingly caustic."
"As a technical feat, wow. There’s deft choreography from Lizzi Gee (those penises!) and sharp video design from Nina Dunn, but really it’s the puppets that make the show, more than 100 of them, beautifully constructed, with 15 puppeteers doing a fantastic job of bringing those famous faces to life and making themselves disappear."