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Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be

Published May 21, 2014

What’s it all about?

Pimps, thieves, gamblers and prostitutes. These are the sorts of individuals you’ll find whiling away the hours in an underground club in Soho, where the action of this musical comedy unfolds. The story itself involves gambling and bloodshed, weddings and refurbishments, all of which is propelled along by song, dance and a decent helping of humour.

Who’s in it?

Jessie Wallace has left the Queen Vic to take up residence in a new London gaff, but she hasn’t relinquished the bold and brash attitude of the woman she’s been portraying on screen for more than a decade. The EastEnders actress channels Kat Moon’s funny and feisty attitude into her performance as Lil, the partner of Mark Arden’s rough and ready club owner Fred, whose romantic tendencies are limited to the mantra “When you’re on the floor, marry a whore”.

While we’re on the subject of marriage, it is worth mentioning former Jersey Boy Ryan Molloy who is seen donning full (female) wedding attire in his role as an overtly camp interior designer whose modernisation of Fred’s club provokes a catchy rendition of Contemporary.

The show’s comedy comes in the form of Suzie Chard’s Betty, a hard-as-nails prostitute who carries a brick in her handbag to ward off any unwelcome attention, and Christopher Ryan, whose performance as the incomprehensible Red steals as many laughs as his character does other people’s belongings.

Leading the way in the musical stakes is Sarah Middleton as the club’s sweet and innocent new recruit Rosie. Her pitch perfect delivery of the musical’s avian-inspired tunes Where Do Little Birds Go? and Sparrows Can’t Sing are two of the most memorable songs in the show.

What should I look out for?

There’s a lot to look out for in this stunning production by Terry Johnson, but Lionel Bart’s showstopping tunes and William Dudley’s innovative underground set are among the highlights of the show.

Who was in the press night crowd?

The EastEnders cast were out in force to support their co-star Wallace. Jake Wood (Max), Diane Parish (Denise) and Lindsey Coulson (Carol) were there alongside former Walford resident Barbara Windsor, who performed in the original 1959 production at the Stratford venue. A man with his own press night to prepare for, Cameron Mackintosh was also spotted in the foyer ahead of Miss Saigon’s official opening tonight.

In a nutshell?

With showstopping tunes, laugh-out-loud comedy and incredible performances, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be makes for an evening of non-stop entertainment.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@ian_radioguy Thoroughly enjoyed Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be @stratfordeast last night. Bound to sell out, book soon! #EastIsTheNewWest

@pbird40 Fings ain’t wot.. at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, great show, Jess Wallace was brilliant and lovely with it.

Will I like it?

It would be more fitting on this occasion to ask the gentleman sitting next to me. He was tapping his feet with such enthusiasm that the whole of row K was shaking. Had I not been enjoying the show just as much this would probably have been annoying, but I was more inclined to join in with the rhythm than glare at him to stop.