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Review: Floyd Collins (Wilton's Music Hall)

Jonathan Butterell directs this musical based on a true story

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In the 2011 film 127 Hours, Danny Boyle proved that you can make drama out of a man trapped in a cave. Sadly Tina Landau and Adam Guettel's Floyd Collins, revived now at Wilton's Music Hall, fails to establish the same jeopardy that made Boyle's film a hit.

The titular explorer is an ambitious go-getter who longs for nothing more than to discover a cavern that will bring fame and fortune to his family. Seven miles down the road, Mammoth Cave is world-renowned and Floyd Collins wants a piece of the pie.

So when he finds a cave of epic proportions beneath a neighbour's land, his dreams of a bustling attraction with ticket office and curio shop are suddenly within reach. That is until a misplaced step brings the cave, and his aspirations, crashing down around him.

As the days pass by and Collins' health and sanity fades, the fame he desired becomes a reality as the world's media descends on the cave entrance. Reporters, film studio execs and merchandise sellers turn out to cash in.

But here's the sticking point. Why should we care about the outcome of this explorer we know so little about? The writers' decision to relegate the women in his life to the sidelines in this veritable sausage fest means there's very little emotional investment in Floyd's plight - a travesty considering Rebecca Trehearn's Nellie is the best performance by a country mile. Instead, male bravado reigns and no one gets that worried about the situation until it's too late, for Floyd and the show.

Considering his situation, the doomed explorer (admirably undertaken by Ashley Robinson) can be forgiven for not moving much for the duration of the piece, but on the whole Jonathan Butterell's production is more static than a trailer park caravan. Coupled with truly unimaginative scaffold design - which negates the ready-made cavern of Wilton's crumbling stone walls - this production might be better served in pitch black, at least then we might start to empathise with Collins' predicament.

Floyd Collins' saving grace is its rousing score, beautifully sung by an otherwise uneven cast. But it's not enough to rescue the piece and by the latter stages of the performance I was left hoping someone would lower a rope and haul me out of my seat.

Floyd Collins runs at Wilton's Music Hall until 15 October 2016.