Somewhat misleadingly listed in the theatre billings, this “unauthorised Whosical adventure” would be better suited not to the musical section but the children’s shows, not only because children would be more forgiving of the many shortcomings, but also as they genuinely seem to be the target audience for this production which resembles nothing so much as an overenthusiastic school play.
Make no mistake; for those with youngsters raised in a Whovian household, diversion is assured for an hour and there are a handful of jokes aimed at those who view their Who from a more mature perspective, but any show which defines itself by what it is not will inevitably encounter trouble faster than a nineteen sixties companion.
The show opens with a series of taped phone messages purporting to be from David Tennant, Billie Piper and Matt Smith turning down their offers to be involved with the show (John Barrowman conversely proclaiming he is up for any musical theatre) followed by a call from Steven Moffat to back up his cease and desist letter, advising that the team are not authorised to stage any musical version of Doctor Who.
What follows is the attempts of alleged Masters of the Whoniverse Jamie and Jess to perform their show without breaching copyright, hastily adapting the script and renaming their time travelling machine the Phone Box of Love. With Jamie starring as the first ginger (medical) Doctor, dressed in Converse trainers, kilt, long scarf, bow tie, tweed jacket and 3D glasses and Jess playing Fiona McFeisty, the adventure begins, trying to channel the magic of Who through the power of musical theatre.
With only two actors, one keyboard, a cardboard dog named K-10 and a series of silly hats, we visit ancient Rome, meet Vincent Van Gogh, Madame de Pompadour, William Shakespeare and an evil mucus monster, but the songs are the musical equivalent of running down corridors, nether sharp nor smart enough to be genuinely perceptive about the nature of the characters or the relationship the audience have with the show nor deep or honest enough to be moving in any way, it is not so much a musical or a Whosical but a muzakil.
While the Jamie is relentlessly one note in all his characters, companion Fiona has the marginally more interesting role and the more pleasing voice, singing of need and weakness, how it is tough to be a single Cyberwoman in the city (“Dancing to Beyonce / You might meet your fiancé / But if you touch him your will die”) but the truth is in her first number: “A companion is never for company / Just a pretty face for monsters to attack.”
The focus is on the revived show, with only cursory references to what went before and the dark ages between when Saturday evenings offered only dating shows, Ant and Dec and Dale Winton, yet the styling is hopelessly taken from John Nathan-Turner’s era, overloud, showy and desperately hoping that pantomime performances will distract from how cheap and empty it is, the one genuinely innovative moment – and it is nothing more than a moment – the Doctor chorus line which closes the show.
I Need A Doctor runs in the Pleasance Courtyard until Monday 26th August