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Mamma Mia, King’s Theatre, Southsea

Words by Emma Beatty

Mamma Mia, King’s Theatre, Southsea, 12 June
Verdict – camp fun – just go with it, 4/5 stars

Members of the production took a flying visit to Gunwharf Quays and The Emirates Spinnaker Tower. Picture by: Malcolm Wells

Everyone’s got their inhibition level when it comes to audience participation. Mine is set pretty high. But, last night – it got to me, I was arm-waving to Dancing Queen and singing along to Waterloo. It was like mass therapy – everyone was vigorously chair-dancing in a hot Kings Theatre (on the same day – that we’d just watched Donald Trump shake hands with Kim Jong-Il on TV;  it’s a strange world).

Dammit, I spent the last 15 minutes on my feet synchronised with the whole audience. Looking around the room, I was probably the last one up – it was like a football terrace, but for women of a certain age.

ABBA is just so catchy and feel-good, but also that sad, lonely bit underneath: “I feel like I win when I lose: Waterloo”. It’s a potent combination – plus you know all the words from years of relentless wedding discos and Radio 2 exposure. The show was slick, quick and pacey. No time to fidget before the next big song was up.

“Here we go again” – sometimes it’s best not to question and just join in. It was all here – high camp, middle-aged women in slinky satin flares, acting as a veil for true emotion. Belting out these thin popsy tunes as if they were Judy Garland. Maybe that’s why we like it so much – bottle it all up and belt it out, a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Bright lights, bright costumes, slightly nasally musical-style singing (except from the slinky long-legged Helen Ankar who was also a fabulous dancer). It was cheesy, but underneath it felt quite good/poignant on ideas about loneliness, marriage, romance.

The live band (guitars, keyboard, drums) pumped out the decibels through mists of dry ice. The singers did well to make themselves heard. The lead, Shona White as single mother Donna, wringing every scrap of emotion she could out of  “The Winner Takes It All”.

It’s dated, yep:  the songs have been around since the 70s, the musical since the 90s. The plot has to knowingly engineer flimsy excuses to segue into the next corny song.

But, as they say: “Thank You For The Music”.  The confetti ending had everyone beaming from ear to ear as the cast energetically leapt around the stage.

In our interesting political times – we want more of this 70s glamour. I’d be happy to watch the whole thing again tomorrow.

Mamma Mia is at The King’s until 23 June and then tours the UK.

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