Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 20 May 2017
Whisking audiences back to 1968, Pete ‘N’ Keeley is a lighthearted and entertaining show about one couple whose relationship has played in front of cameras for the past 12 years and the strain that being in public eye constantly placed on their relationship.
This European premiere works well in the space of the Tristan Bates theatre, which thanks to the
psychedelic designs of Emily Bestow really gives the production its 1960’s vibe as well as capturing the spirit of the show itself. While the space is small, it allows the intimacy of the show to shine through effectively and keeps the story focused.
Unfortunately though, there isn’t in fact a whole lot of story to go on as the audience watches the disintegration of both the professional and personal relationship of Pete and Keely filming a television programme side by side. Aside from this, the actors and the audience aren’t given a lot to go on in terms of character development which is frustrating to watch as there are some great lines that each character throws to one another throughout.
However, much of the success of the production is down to the hilarious performances of Katie Kerr and David Bardlsey – both clearly throwing themselves into the characters and the music with great spirit. Katie Kerr as Keely in particular is sassy as she gets defensive about her solo career and Pete’s infidelities but increasingly vulnerable as the depth of pain of the breakdown of their marriage hits home. In contrast, David Bardlsey has slightly less to work with as Pete is not quite a force of nature in the same way Keely is – wishing for a quiet life and escape from fame. It is a quieter performance that is nicely judged but doesn’t make as much of an impact.
Musically Pete ‘N’ Keely is plenty of fun, which reveals a show that doesn’t take itself seriously. Songs such as ‘The Cross Country Tour’ and ‘Tony and Cleo’ are great fun to listen to, but it has to be said that they don’t really push the story at the centre of the show forward. But in contrast to this, ‘Secret Love’ and ‘Black Coffee’ add some heart to proceedings which is lacking elsewhere.
Matthew Gould’s production is great entertainment, revealing potential in the show – but at the same time it also shows that Pete ‘N’ Keely could use a bit more work in terms of story and character development to really engage the audience’s attention.