Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 2 March 2015


Union Theatre ⋄ 25th February - 21st March 2015

A Technicolor sugar rush.

Tom Wicker

Will being tongue-tied, socially awkward and sex obsessed for ever be the default portrayal of geeks, nerds and sci-fi fans? Hands up, I love Doctor Who and regularly used to record episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation on to my cassette player as a kid, so I’m more sensitive about this than some people. It’s a stereotype seemingly fixed in cement.

Certainly, Loserville relies heavily on this long list of sad-sack connotations. But try as I might – and, out of principle, I did – I just couldn’t bring myself to mind that much. Perhaps I was just won over by the zippy sense of fun injected by director Michael Burgen, the infectiously catchy tunes, the twinkly wit of the book and the entertaining performances.

A key to the success of this fringe revival of the 2012 musical by Elliot David and James Bourne (one third of Busted, one fifth of current ‘supergroup’ McBusted) is that it embraces its provenance. David and Bourne are British, but their show follows the template of the totemic American high school. Its points of reference are cinema, TV and that Day-Glo parallel universe far, far away that has its own rules and is occupied by Grease and Zac Efron.

Basically, this 1970s-set show is a Technicolor genre filtered, refined and distilled until it hits like a sugar rush. As would-be lovebirds Michael Dork and Holly Manson rush to ‘pair’ computer terminals – i.e. invent email and the internet – before rich-kid villain Eddie Arch steals the credit, the musical’s writers play with the tropes of a well-established world of jocks, geeks and girls like toddlers in ball pit.

This is reflected in the hyper-stylised set and prop design of Burgen’s production, which consists of cartoon-like outlines of computer and VHS boxes with the word ‘data’ written on them. At the beginning of the show, huge blocks that double up as both scenery and seating are laid out like a massive Rubik’s Cube. Such playful touches abound in this self-consciously fabricated but recognisable world. There’s a genuinely funny, ongoing joke about the origins of Star Wars.

Fittingly for a musical co-written by someone responsible for the kind of ear-wormy pop you could only get rid of by cutting off your head (probably), there are some infectiously catchy songs here, with some lovely harmonies and refrains. There’s a smile to the lyrics, a gentle knowingness, but not at the expense of heart. Some of the songs send themselves up, but not sneeringly so.

The main cast and ensemble are great, belting out the big numbers and making the soppy ones work. They pitch their performances nicely. Luke Newton and Holly-Anne Hull are sweetly awkward as Michael Dork and Holly Manson, while Lewis Bradley is smarmily awful as Eddie Arch. Meanwhile, Jordan Fox as the significantly named ‘Lucas’ Lloyd is hilarious, while Sandy Grigels and Matthew Harvey are a great double-act as under-sexed, would-be starship designers.

Choreographer Matt Krzan does creative wonders with the Union’s relatively small space, never letting the comic energy and colour fade. And this is accompanied by some well-judged off-stage singing that instils a pleasing sense of depth and scale. The whole thing is, of course, often as cheesy as hell and the plot doesn’t bear much scrutiny. But with its tongue lovingly in its cheek, Loserville is bloody good fun.


Tom Wicker

Tom is a freelance writer and editor, based in London. He has acted in the past, but the stage is undoubtedly better off without him on it. As well as regularly contributing to Exeunt and, he reviews for Time Out, has reviewed Broadway productions for The Telegraph. He has also written for The Guardian and the online world affairs magazine openDemocracy.

Loserville Show Info

Produced by Sasha Regan

Directed by Michael Burgen

Written by Elliot Davis and James Bourne

Choreography by Matt Krzan

Cast includes Lewis Bradley, Luke Newton, Holly-Anne Hull, Sarah Covey, Jordan Fox, Sandy Grigels, Matthew Harvey, Ryan Ridley, Charlie Kendall, Isobel Hathaway, Jennifer Jolly Jamieson

Original Music Elliot Davis and James Bourne


Running Time 2 hrs 10 mins (including interval)



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