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Close-Up: The Twiggy Musical (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Close-Up: The Twiggy Musical

Society: London (professional shows)

Venue: Menier Chocolate Factory. 53 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU

Credits: Written & directed by Ben Elton


Close-Up: The Twiggy Musical

2 stars

There’s something oddly inconsequential about this show. It tells the story of Twiggy’s unlikely life and leaves us admiring her not inconsiderable achievements and versatility but beyond that one emerges thinking “So what?” because there’s no real plot to drive the narrative. Moreover the projected printed info and the real life clips make it feel too much like a hagiographic documentary. “In 1967 Twggy was the most famous woman in the world” we’re told firmly. Really? The Queen and Jackie Kennedy were pretty well known at the time. So were Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn.

Ben Elton has worked hard to factor in some then-and-now social commentary to make this story of the skinny girl from Neasden who became DBE in 2019 seem relevant. But it feels contrived.

All this is a pity because there’s talent in the cast. Elena Skye has nailed a direct voice for Twiggy and her singing and dancing are very charismatic.  Hannah-Jane Fox is outstanding as Twiggy’s mum, beset with mental health problems but with warm wit, although it’s a shame that the narrative sails so quickly and lightly over the electro-convulsive therapy she was subjected to – an opportunity missed. Steven Serlin, who sings well, has a splendid gift for impersonation (David Frost, Melvyn Bragg and co) and brings loads of Lancastrian warmth to Twiggy’s dad.

The energetic ensemble, from which lots of quite appealing cameo roles emerge is slick and Jacob Fearey’s spikey choreography fits the mood –  and the small space.

Stuart Morley is in charge of the music and a seven piece band sits, often visibly, on a side platform above stage right. There’s a lot of nostalgia in the music – songs which connote the era from Gracie Fields and Dinah Shore  to Petula Clark and Bernard Cribbins and a lot more. It isn’t quite a juke box musical but occasionally one wonders if the choice of song is driving the narrative rather than the other way round. Either way Morley and his orchestra make a fine sound.

Close-Up is entertaining enough in its way. Twiggy is quite an interesting character, after all. It’s just that it lacks depth. I’d be interested to know how the real-life Twiggy (“Oh and she saved Marks and Spencers” as her mother comments at the end) feels about it. Justin de Villeneuve, to whom this show is not kind, will loathe it.


Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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