“If successful, you can go for the upgrade”
I was rather seduced by The Quentin Dentin Show’s charms when I saw it last year – riding post-Edinburgh enthusiasm, this sci-fi musical slotted into the late-night berth at the Above the Arts studio perfectly. Buoyed by that success, producer Hannah Elsy and writer/composer Henry Carpenter brought on a new co-book writer – Tom Crowley – to further expand the show for this new run at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
It’s an interesting development as the increased running time now carries with it an interval and I’m not entirely convinced that the show carries this off. The Quentin Dentin Show is always amiable, the glint in its eye feels cheeky even as it approaches something darker in tone and so the ‘drama’ imposed by the cut to black feels a little artificial. It gives the opportunity to go and get another drink sure, but its hard not to feel that the energy flow would be better maintained.
The story circles around young professionals Nat and Keith who have found themselves in a rut – she hates her job but at least she has one, he’s a would-be writer who is singularly lacking in inspiration. As often happens in these cases, they accidentally summon the supernatural Quentin Dentin into their lives, a strange being who acts as a kind of life coach for them whilst hiding the rather sinister motivations for his actions.
Explaining The Quentin Dentin Show does it few favours though. The joy of director Adam Lenson’s production comes from the embracing of its daftness: the dazzling brightness of Freya Tilly and Lottie-Daisy Francis’ robotic friends, the gentle bickering between Shauna Riley and Max Panks’ central couple (best shown in amusing number ‘The Blame Game’, the gameness with which they all throw themselves into Caldonia Walton’s warm choreography.
Carpenter’s score is ill-served by the descriptor ‘rock musical’ too, it combines a strong melodic gift with a range of 80s influences and works best for me with its crunchy synths and electro moods to the fore. Crucially, it pushes the narrative forward and so feels like a breath of fresh air in a musical theatre landscape so heavily influenced by nostalgia. And there’s some thought-provoking method behind the comic madness that makes The Quentin Dentin Show one to consider.