Review: Porn – The Musical, Theatre503

“Fate was about to unload on him like a football team on a lapdancer”

First off, if you’ve arrived at this page by googling one of the words above, then sorry to disappoint but Porn – The Musical contains no actual pornographic material. What you do get though is a really quite funny, high-energy madcap Maltese musical, via a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. Young Stefan is happily engaged to Jade and living a quiet life as a carpenter in Malta but when it turns out that Jade is actually a huge slut who has slept with everyone on the island, the distraught Stefan packs his bag in search of a new life in the USA. When he is mugged as soon as he arrives, he ends up being sucked (fnarr fnarr) into the world of porn, but finds that it’s not quite what he expected.

It really is very funny. The music by Boris Cezek (who is, according to the programme, well know in the Maltese music industry, how could you not love him!) and Kris Spiteri is tuneful enough, but the book, written by the same two plus Abigail Guan and Malcolm Galea who acts as the narrator is consistently laugh out loud funny. Galea drives things along with his interjections and there’s a real sense of his stand-up roots in the frequent slips out of character as the actors complain about one thing or another. This provides an almost anarchic feel to proceedings which works very well as it means it has the sharper edge of a comedy routine, especially in the role of Miscellaneous Man who plays a vast number of supporting characters, often in the same scene, which keeps the laughs coming.

Sophia Thierens’ tart-with-a-heart Sanddy (with a double DD) and Brendan Cull’s nerdish Stefan make a winningly engaging central couple, both with strong singing voices and good comedic timing. Jody Peach’s slutty Jade is hysterical and her bitch-off with Sanddy is brilliantly done, anything that incorporates the running man dance move should automatically win awards. Star of the show for me though is Alain Terzoli’s very well endowed Dr Johnny, a brainless hunk of meat with a MILF fetish and some very funny lines and the song of the night, P.H.D. (it doesn’t stand for what you think it does). David Burt and Ahmet Ahmet also provide good performances, indeed the whole ensemble felt very well established with no weak links.

There’s a great use of the limited space, using the single aisle to create some dynamic movement, and the panels used to represent a multitude of locations are inventively recalibrated, culminating in a great sequence for the penultimate number, ‘It’s Hard Being Me’. Elsewhere, there’s some great humour in the suggestive use of shadows and the reveal of a glitterball from…well I wouldn’t want to spoil just where it emerges from!

The only slow moments come when the composers try to dial down the comedy and stretch their dramatic song-writing skills: one overlong song in each act was guilty of this and without the humour, the songwriting was a little too exposed. At the same time, there’s a brilliant final flourish which ensured one left the theatre with a huge smile.

Theatre 503 is basking in the glow of the surprise Olivier Award win for The Mountaintop which was premiered here and whilst this is a completely different kettle of fish, I rather imagine that this will be quite a successful little number. As is often the case with new musicals, few of the tunes will stick with you, but you’ll be laughing hard all the way through: recommended.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: 50p
Note: predictably there’s bad language and sexual references throughout

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