Pete ‘n’ Keely, Tristan Bates Theatre

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by guest critic Alistair Wilkinson

The spectators are cast as the TV studio audience; a flashing sign above our head encourages us to applaud. Unfortunately there isn’t much to celebrate in this production set around two-out-of date performers trying to re-launch their career. The initial impression of the set is one of excitement and exuberance, but Emily Bestow’s design leaves the stage cluttered and incredibly busy. The actors must awkwardly navigate their way through whilst juggling a quick costume change, and avoiding being hit by a colourful disc of some sort. It’s a shame you can’t see the band through this disorientating mess.

The show has the odd enjoyable moment. However from the first note to the end, Pete ‘n’ Keely fights an uphill struggle because it has miscast the two crucial title roles. Katie Kerr and David Bardsley are average actors, who have ok voices. Despite being a small space, their sound doesn’t really travel, and some lyrics are left inaudible. We are told that Pete and Keely are superstar entertainers, but we do not see this in Kerr or Bardsley’s performance. On a side note, to have Keely played by a younger actress is an odd choice.  If we are to believe that she’s a seasoned professional, then surely casting an older performer would be a more suitable choice.

Kerr and Bardsley make an amicable pair and find some moments of success in the piece, as well as occasional results in the less vocally demanding songs. However for the majority of the show, the actors struggle to make the text their own. Their awkwardness shows, leading to them appearing stiff on stage. The most exciting part of the whole performance is the moment of audience interaction, with Joslyn providing more stage presence than the two actors themselves.

Pete ‘n’ Keely has all of the features of an under-rehearsed A-Level devised piece. It has high ambitions, yet poor execution. The show is an underwhelming and overhyped nightclub act – a mediocre concoction of amateur dramaturgy, that’s expected to hold its own as a fully realised piece of performance.

Pete ‘n’ Keely runs through 20 May.

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