“Just crack on and I’m sure you’ll come up with a corker!”
Superficially, Crush the Musical might seem just a little bit batshit crazy, from the pen of the creator of Bad Girls (and Bad Girls the Musical) how could it be otherwise. But as Maureen Chadwick and composer Kath Gotts’ girls’ school romp unwinds its merry way across the stage, its subversive leanings come to the fore as it emerges as a rare example of straight-up and sweetly played lesbian camp, wrapped up in the trappings of an old-fashioned musical comedy.
Set in the early 60s in the liberal surroundings of Dame Dorothea Dosserdale School for Girls where free spirits are celebrated and fostered, the sixth-formers are hugely excited for life beyond their forthcoming exams. But the arrival of a strict new headmistress, the formidable Miss Bleacher, introduces an air of tyranny, determined to root out the unnatural practices that have been going on in the Art Room, and the changing rooms as a budding schoolgirl romance has taken hold.
So as in the golly gasp St Trinian way of things, the future of the whole school is jolly well under threat, as well as the right to do tap routines with hockey sticks, but the arrival of perky Games Mistress Miss Givings and a rites-of-passage runaway trip to London complete with a dream sequence involving a butch leather-clad biker and a lesbian bar run by Marlene Dietrich, you can see that silliness abounds but the tone of Anna Linstrum’s production delightfully daft and daffy.
Gotts’ score may not be significantly memorable (though she has a nifty way with a rhyming lyric – ‘psyche’ and ‘likey’ is still raising a chuckle now) but it is always sprightly as it jollies the plot along and it offers a glorious Rosie Ashe two standout moments as the fearsome head – ‘The Future Mothers of the Future Sons of England’ is a cracker – and Sara Crowe’s Miss Austin is a wonderful confection of kind but downtrodden teacher archetypes. And as the three points of the lesbian love triangle (of sorts) that emerges, Charlotte Miranda-Smith, Brianna Ogunbawo and Stephanie Clift all shine brightly.
And silly it is undoubtedly often is, there does feel something important about uncomplicated depictions of LGBT relationships on our stages. Heaven knows there’s plenty of theatre about the difficulties of coming out, or being visibly gay in an intolerant society, etc etc so stories like these where the notion of homosexual love goes unchallenged offer a smidgen of balance and do their own little bit towards trying to adjust our society’s notion of what is normal.