The Opinion Makers (Colchester)

A disappointing new musical satire at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre.

It would be nice to be able to write that The Opinion Makers is the most enjoyable satirical show since Beyond the Fringe. Regretfully, it isn't. Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon have concocted a pastiche musical set in the 1960s which sends up both market research-led rebranding of products (then a comparatively new science) and social attitudes of the period.

Justin Edwards, David Mountfield & Julie Atherton
Justin Edwards, David Mountfield & Julie Atherton

Daniel Buckroyd directs this co-production between Colchester's Mercury Theatre and the Derby Theatre, which is cleverly designed by Sara Perks. In fact, the stage management as bits of the set are wheeled in or flown is almost the best thing about the show, though Sally Rapier has provided some neat-enough choreography.

Tucked away at the back of the stage is the six-piece band, some members of which also take part in the action. Their sound is good, which is more than you can say of some of the actors, who don't seem able to stay in key with any consistency. The plot revolves around Fernsby, who runs a market research consultancy, one which is somewhat short of clients.

When the owner of a long-established cure-all lotion seeks to increase the product's visibility – prodded into it by his American wife – Fernsby (Justin Edwards), his devoted secretary Lassister (Mel Giedroyc) and somewhat layabout assistant Penhall (Daniel Boys) think that all will be plain sailing. It's not, of course.

David Mountfield doubles the proprietor of Dr Campbell's lotion and a pin-striped Establishment MP Sir Peter Donaldson (no prizes for guessing who he might remind you of). Laird Campbell's go-getting, gold-digging spouse Wanda is Julie Atherton, who makes quite an impact as she wheedles her way around every male available.