The king of rock ‘n' roll is used so much as a unique selling device that you half expect him to pop in an episode of EastEnders buying a bag of chips. Even that idea is a whole lot funnier than the half-baked attempts at humour here. The concept is fine: humble Harry doesn't remember who he is. He wakes up in 1977 in a tree, on the day Elvis died, with no recollection how he got there. Once installed in a new flat, he meets Cheryl who attempts to help him on his quest.
From the opening scene featuring Elvis himself - complete with jumpsuit And shades - this play smacks of desperation. The songs come thick and fast, trying to fool you into believing that the narrative is actually moving when, in fact, most of the scenes feature no drama, comedy or anything of interest. The characters of Harry and Cheryl are social misfits and well suited, but they’re written as if they’ve stepped onto the stage via a bad 1970s sitcom.
Terence Mann plays Harry with a naïve sense of wonder. Quite apt really because, as writer, director and performer, he must be the same if he expects any audience to actually enjoy this muddled, underwritten piece. Julia Rounthwaite shares writing, direction and producing credits. It’s a pity that one of them didn’t realise that "a little less conversation, a little more action please" may have saved this misfire.
Shuna Snow is the one performer worth seeing, playing a multitude of roles with real ease. But you can see in her face the pain that’s also felt by any paying theatregoer upon listening to the awful dialogue. As each weak link leads back to Presley, the audience on the night I attended could be heard sighing loudly.
Paul Kondras’ clever set design has an element of mystery which is welcomed in a play lacking so much.
With an embarrassingly laughter-free narrative that features squirrels, a magical wardrobe that seems to have been flown in from Narnia and a script as weak as a newborn kitten, the only Elvis song that I was humming on the way out was "Return to Sender."
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Royal Exchange, Manchester)