Review: Big Society! ***

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City Varieties, Leeds

Boff Whalley, the writer behind this music hall, riot of a show, can write a catchy song like you wouldn’t believe.

His skill in creating a hook and a set of lyrics that will worm their way into your head is quite extraordinary and it makes this show – in combination with an effervescently joyful set of performances – an incredibly fun night at the theatre.

The problem is that the songs, the performances, the sheer abandon on stage has led to a show that feels slack and (apt given the co-producers are Chumbawamba) is shot through with a sense of anarchy.

Part of this is due to what appears to be a loose hand in the directing, partly the fact that Whalley has spent more time crafting brilliant songs and set pieces than creating a hung-together narrative.

The set up is that the audience is transported to a chaotic music-hall show in 1910 Britain, when the country was run by ex-public schoolboys and the underclass were underfoot. Nothing ever changes, is the message. And it is a message banged out loud and clear at every opportunity. Whalley has come up with some incredibly amusing set pieces, he himself playing a scene-stealing ‘invisible’ monkey, Marcel, brought to life inside a magic cupboard where he espouses French philosophy.

There is so much that is so much fun in the show and it is impossible not to enjoy it, but the laughter and joy come at the expense of a compelling narrative – or, in truth, any narrative at all.

To February 4.