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Shang-a-Lang (King's Head Theatre)

Catherine Johnson's play opened at the King's Head Theatre last week

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
© Nick Pomeroy

The play which was writer Catherine Johnson's springboard for smash hit Mamma Mia!, Shang-a-Lang is that musical's naughty, more experienced older sister.

A decade and a bit on from its debut, the comedy doesn't feel as daring or spontaneous as it appears to have been in that pre-Shameless, pre-TOWIE time.

Self-centred singleton Pauline (Lisa Kay) has a weekend away with childhood best bud Jackie (Kellie Batchelor) to Butlins to watch the Bay City Rollers "reunion" for her 40th birthday. Their mate and divorced mum Lauren (Samantha Edmonds) tags along at the last minute.

When they bump into Butlin entertainers Vince and Carl, to her dismay Pauline isn't the one to finally find a man - cue later histrionics followed by soul-searching.

The King's Head Theatre's shiny pink streamer backdrop hit the Butlins level nicely, while single beds double as sun loungers.

Thomas Craig is funny as straight-talking 40-odd Vince, his partner Ben McGregor marginally less so - weirdly Tom Woodward as a redcoat/life guard seems to get more genuine gags slipped in among his set moves. Batchelors' guilty mum has the most appeal: both earnest and warm, while Kay's Pauline is a touch annoying.

Director Robert Wolstenholm steers the tone towards gutsy but some moments of high drama are a touch splashy and uncontrolled. Other cues aren't snappy enough.

Less well-known than Abba, the odd Roller reference might leave younger viewers out in the cold. For the most part though it's a bright, tartan-clad tonic for the January blues.