Rumpy Pumpy! at the Union Theatre
Rumpy Pumpy! is a new musical by Barbara Jane Mackie, which follows the true exploits of Hampshire Women’s Institute members Jean Johnson (Louise Jameson) and Tricia Deighton (Shirley Landels) as they go against the grain in their pursuit to decriminalise prostitution in Britain, with the aim of improving working conditions and making it all around safer for working girls.
The notion of two genteel middle-class women running around the country and abroad searching for the “perfect brothel” presents an otherwise perfect opportunity to explore the comedic clash of cultures, particularly with the undoubtedly crude chatter and sexual liberty that brothels present. Not only that, but with a story so focused upon women’s rights and the struggles of working girls, it provides the basis for a great drama. Rumpy Pumpy!, unfortunately however, fails to capitalise on either of these opportunities and instead finds itself bogged down by tedious subplots, relatively unlikeable characters and songs tangled by their own lyrics.
Making up a large portion of the show is the Blue Saloon, a brothel operating under Madam Holly Spencer (Linda Nolan). Catering to all walks of society, from priests to dentists and even coppers, the Blue Saloon offers an insight into the lives of the prostitutes. While an attempt at backstory for the girls is made, however, and while they are fun in their own right, none of them carry any real credence, nor do they feel particularly emotive. The tied plot of the vengeful police officer and the lobster dinner lovers also provides little to an otherwise weighty tale that could have seen more focus.
The pair’s tour does offer some fun moments, particularly on their American travels, but in truth the delivery isn’t quite there and the tunes, while performed well enough, are a struggle with the material and wording. A case of tea and crumpets may be the tagline here, but this one needs more time at the drawing board if it wants to iron out the imperfections, because at its heart lies a fantastic story waiting to be given due credence.
Photo: Scott Rylander
Rumpy Pumpy! is at the Union Theatre from 14th until 19th November 2016, for further information or to book visit here.