With music by George Stiles and the book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, Honk! draws upon the fairytale of the Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen.
This timeless tale is given a fresh impetus by Stiles and Drewe as Ugly, the aesthetically-challenged farmyard fowl – which indeed was the title of the show when it first opened – finds first his feet and then his feathers as he turns into a swan.
Drewe believes that this allegory is something that we all can relate to with its main theme of the acceptance of others as they are and not just because they appear to be the same as us.
It is a challenging show in terms of getting us to look at prejudice and also in terms of the lyrics. Unless you are familiar with the piece – or the general works of Stiles and Drewe – you can miss a lot of the humour in the lyrics. It does pay to concentrate to get the most from it.
Having said that, as the story is so well known the plot can be followed quite easily.
With quite a large cast there is plenty to keep your eyes on, with several numbers involving most of the company.
As ever, with the Mellows, the principals put in a good turn and Helen Donnelly – as Ugly’s mother – is by turn humorous and distraught. Ross Harris, as Ugly, is the star of the show as he manages to convey the desire to fit in without compromising what seems to be an inner nerd he is channelling. He is never afraid to appear physically gawkish and ill at ease with his body.
There is a fine piece of business between Natasha Ingham, as the cat Queenie, and her ‘housemate’ Lowbutt the chicken, played by Susan Huthmacher. These surnames appear more than once in the programme as a new generation takes to the stage to entertain the Burton public which is satisfying to see.
Given the constrictions of the Brewhouse stage Mellows manage several transformations by the clever use of curtains, and credit must go to the designers and production team.
The Mellow Dramatics’ Honk! is on at the Brewhouse arts centre in Union Street until Saturday night. The performance starts at 7.30 every night with a matinee at 2.30 on Saturday.
Tickets are £10 for the Saturday matinee and £12 for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Mellows also have their usual family/small group offer: Buy four tickets and get a fifth one free on tickets for Wednesday, Thursday and the Saturday matinee. To book tickets call the Brewhouse box office on 01283 508100.