Theatre N16, 15/10/2018
Musical parodies are ten a penny these days and easy to screw up if there’s not a great deal of attention paid to the nuances of the original work, or if there isn’t a clear love for the source material. Fortunately Say My Name displays both as this smart and funny musical condenses 62 hours of television in to just under two hours. Understandably it plays fast and loose with the narrative given the short running time, but all of the essential plot beats are hit here, and hit in an immensely satisfying way.
There’s lots of fourth wall breaking and nods to the audience that they have to skip through certain parts, and Walter White breaks bad surprisingly early within the production, murdering his first victim within the first ten minutes. In some ways it’s slightly a shame that they haven’t made Walter a more sympathetic and conflicted character but then this is a parody musical and not an intensely accurate retelling so that’s more than forgivable. Jesse (or Jessica, as we later discover) also makes for an appealing partner in his drug dealing ways, and both actors have great chemistry together. Ahem. Sorry about that. Also, akin to the recently reviewed Thor and Loki this sees the cast taking on multiple roles and playing a selection of instruments and it’s impressive stuff from start to finish.
The Mother-Fucking D.E.A. is the stand out number, an earworm that’s been stuck in my head ever since, but Say My Name and Comedy Lawyer are also strong and there are a great selection of other fantastic songs, including one which summarises all of the third season which is performed by the whole cast, it’s a superb piece and made even funnier by the use of wooden spoons representing various characters. A couple of the others are a little on the average side of things and perhaps could do with a little more work but none are bad and as most are short you’ll never find yourself tiring of them, and if the soundtrack was released I’d buy it in an instant.
There’s lots of extremely fun ideas throughout the production including their portraying Walt Jnr as a little doll (and one who’s suspiciously like Tiny Tim from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), which is a smart move as it means they don’t run the risk of upsetting anyone with cerebral palsy. Meanwhile Hank’s wife Marie Schrader is portrayed as a cliched bank robber, complete with striped shirt and a crappy mask, and there’s even a filmed sequence where we see the train robbery acted out as if it was a silent film from the twenties. They also refer to the fan backlash against Skylar with Walter commenting upon all of the terrible things he did, whilst her only questionable act was to fuck Ted (and as mentioned here, who wouldn’t?) which pleased a great deal as I could never understand why certain fans disliked the character so.
If I’ve any complaints it’s a shame there wasn’t a person of colour within the cast to play the characters like Gus Fring and Tuco, though this is addressed a couple of times during the production, but if it is ever re-staged I’d hope this would be changed. It’s slightly over long too, running for almost two hours (though the website claims it should only be 90 minutes) but if they removed fifteen minutes all would be fine, and there’s nothing that specifically needs to be cut, it could just be tightened up a little.
Created by Rob Gathercole (who also plays Saul Goodman and a moustache twirling Nazi with aplomb) Say My Name is an enormous amount of fun and any fan of Breaking Bad will enjoy it a great deal. All of the cast are on top form and whilst it’s not a subtle piece it is a truly funny one, and I’d suggest all rush to buy tickets as soon as they can as it deserves to sell out every performance.