King’s Head Theatre, London – until 26 October 2019
I probably shouldn’t admit this but I am extremely ticklish, to the point where even looking at someone getting tickled sends a little shiver down my spine. So naturally I booked in to see a musical about competitive endurance tickling (it’s a thing – I’d say google it, at your own peril…) but at a safe distance from any of the feather dusters lurking on the stage.
Chris Burgess’ Tickle the Musical proves to be a rather good-natured, sweet thing that wisely takes itself not at all seriously and is all the more effective for it. A feather-light plot sees smalltown boys Chris and Callum offered fame and fortune (well, five hundred quid) by the calculating Davina Diamond to tickle each other on film, for her website – what on earth could go wrong?!
After a slightly slow beginning, Robert McWhir’s production launches into life once it leans properly into its inherent campness. As Davina declares that two fit lads in short shorts tickling each other isn’t gay in ‘It’s Not Gay’, tongues are placed firmly in cheeks and the homoeroticism is allowed to soar off the chart. By the time we’re at the tickling world championship, you really will be asking what would Julie Andrews do…
Burgess’ attractively tuneful score packs in 17 numbers into its action-packed hour and an up-for-it cast deliver it well under David Eaton’s musical direction. James McDowall and Ben Brooker generate a real chemistry as the tickling twosome with the kind of pleasingly robust male friendship you don’t see too often. Richard Watkins’ Tina Tickle is wonderfully unpredictable (she’s right, you can’t tickle yourself) and I was seriously impressed with Amy Sutton’s Davina, strong vocals and electric stage presence, she’s one to watch out for.
So it’s all really rather good fun, slotting in nicely to the King’s Head’s late slot and wrapping up long before you’ll be wanting to cry out ‘enough’.