SUMMER STREET at London's Waterloo East Theatre
 Photography: Simon Snashall

It has been more than 30 years since Neighbours and Home and Away won the hearts of UK 'Soap' lovers. I must confess that I was not one of the fans of this genre and hold up my hand to having a low tolerance of soaps, suds and all. However, I took a deep breath, cleared my head of this negativity, and joined the audience in the small space of London's Waterloo East Theatre to see Andrew Norris's (founder of ALN Productions) Summer Street, an Aussie soap musical.

With a desire to take his audiences on a trip down memory lane Norris has created a pastiche of those bygone days, exposing the addictive world inhabited by its stars, four of whom are now desperate to escape their miserable lives and resurrect their careers, whatever the cost.Their own lives echo their art - a soap opera. The original score is written by Norris who has paid tribute to Aussie soaps but also to the familiar records of the time. Playfully changing Kylie Minogue's 'I Should Be So Lucky' (1988) to 'Lucky Plucky Me' Summer Street attempts a tongue in cheek depiction of the Aussie soap operas of that time and to recapture the glory days of Kyle and Jason. But there is a problem. We might be familiar with the two afore mentioned soaps but that is where it stops and the 'in' jokes fall somewhat flat on the Brits.

OK, in recent years we have enjoyed Australian TV dramas such as 'The Slap', 'Safe Harbour' and 'Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries' and are seeing the emergence of more but in the 1990s this was new and unexplored territory. As such, the allusions and references were lost on us.

The story itself: there is to be a one episode comeback TV special with the original cast of a previously popular and much loved Aussie soap. Played by Julie Clare, Simon Snashall, Sarah-Louise Young and Myke Cotton, this is a band of highly strung actors who miss the world of fame they once inhabited and which defined them. Desperate to make a success of this one off chance to resurrect their careers, they have regrouped but they have changed since they last appeared together and rather than resurrect their failed careers and lives they resurrect tensions that have never died, ironically creating their own soap drama. 

So, four actors who play four actors who are playing eight parts! Confusing? Oh yes. With few props and no set changes, the cast bravely soldier on, laryngitis and all. But the script and score are unkind to their talents. With a dialogue, often garbled, faithfully mirroring the over exaggeration and banality of their originals, a plot with a denouement that puts the stamp on the ludicrous themes of soap operas, songs whose lyrics are overworked and melodies that are instantly forgettable, this soap fails to create the much needed lather. Billed as a 'hilarious Aussie soap opera musical', Summer Street did not live up to its hype.

A quasi work in progress since 2004, it still has a way to go. Since its recent appearance at the Brighton Fringe, five more numbers have been added and the production now stands at just over 2 hours. Sitting in the small auditorium, I rather wished Norris had desisted. Yes, there were moments of laughter, but these were few. Was this a trip down memory lane? Not really. That is not to take it way from the four actors who performed with energy and commitment, but generally it failed to hit the spot.

Listings:

Location: London Waterloo East Theatre, Brad Street, Lambeth, London,SE1 8TN - nearest stations Waterloo and Waterloo East.
Performance dates: 13 May - 2 June 2019: Evenings 7.30 pm and Sunday 4 pm.
Twitter @SummerStMusical@WaterlooEast #SummerStreet Website  www.summerstreetthemusical.co.uk