Ten Things About Who: The Crimson Horror

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

1. “Only the crumbliest, flakiest humans…”

The naming of Mrs Gillyflower’s match factory as ‘Sweetville’ invites comparison with Bournville, the community created by George and Richard Cadbury to house the workers and families of their chocolate factory when production moved out of Birmingham to a new greenfield site.

As it is, it is more a pastiche of the whole ‘model village’ movement, in which industrialists whose new, heavily industrialised factories constructed whole townships for the required large workforce and their families, on philanthropic lines infused by the owners’ Christian values. Bournville is, of course, one such community, formed by the Quaker Cadbury brothers. Sweetville’s Yorkshire location more closely invites comparison with Saltaire, founded by Sir Titus Salt and now a World Heritage site.

Mind you, I did for one moment wonder whether the fuchsia-coloured liquid that Sweetville’s inhabitants were being doused in was fondant, and that Mr Sweet would turn out to be The Kandyman from 1988’s The Happiness Patrol

2. Special stuff

Maybe it’s just the camp sendup of the gothic, maybe it’s the Yorkshire accents – but this week’s episode felt like it was a (family friendly) sibling to The League of Gentlemen. The mortuary attendant, with his leering tone and wandering tongue, could easily have been a Steve Pemberton creation.

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse

“The word is lachrymose.”
“Can you use it in a sentence?”
“Putting on a fun musical made a pleasant change from the theater’s usual lachrymose fare.”

Spelling Bees have never quite taken off in the UK, although there were a few brief attempts following the commercial success of the documentary Spellbound. So this charming little musical, with music and lyrics by Willian Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, probably fares a little differently in the UK than in the composers’ native America, where the competitions to see which schoolchild can spell the most difficult words are a part of national culture.

The setup is simple: this local spelling bee is being supervised by former spelling champion Rona Lisa (Katherine Kingsley) and school vice principal Panch (Steve Pemberton), and six local children are competing. Actually, there are ten participants at the start of the play, the other four being members of the audience who have been brought on stage.

The audience members at times form the hub of the comedy of the piece, with Pemberton and Kingsley lobbing good-natured insults their way, be it about their clothing or, in one man’s case, his ability to look like he could come third in a David Blunkett lookalike contest.
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