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Sucked! - Leicester Square Theatre

​It is quite often the case, though I seldom mention it in reviews, that a fair amount of new comedy writing for the stage would probably work better for television. But broadcasting regulations are what they are (at the time of writing, the Ofcom Broadcasting Code runs to 166 pages, and even quotes articles in the European Convention on Human Rights), and it’s possible to get away with being cruder and crueller in the theatre that it is on the small screen. Consider, for example, the hit musical The Book of Mormon.

There are quick fire scenes, which sometimes only last a couple of minutes, and frantic scene changes, sometimes to-ing and fro-ing between characters and settings too much. It’s become so prevalent that when I recently attended a new play that started with a monologue that lasted almost half an hour, it caught some other theatregoers by surprise, and some found it very hard going, despite the richness and intensity of both the script and its delivery by a talented performer.

In reviewing a theatre show, one should consider how well it works as a production, and not spend much (if any) energy evaluating its potential as a television programme, motion picture or radio play. I’ve only made a big deal of it here as Sharon Sexton and Riona O Connor, in presenting a staged performance of Sucked! are quite happy to let it be known that this was a presentation of certain sketches and songs from a “musical comedy television series” that is still a work in progress. “Don’t stress if it don’t [sic] make sense,” the prologue tells the audience. Some scenes do indeed work better than others here, but they are, to use their choice of phrase, “thematically linked”, but not dramaturgically so.

This isn’t the kind of irrational feminism that assumes that all men are useless simply because they are men. It’s just certain ones for specific reasons, and the comedy shines through in the details provided. Every so often, however, someone is accused of something not very believable – one particularly memorable ‘yeah, right’ story was about a man who apparently had a habit of clipping his toenails on the London Underground.

There’s no doubting, however, that there are some vivid descriptions in the lyrics, with some hilarious recollections. In one instance, a man was made love to “so hard that [his] penis bled”, and in another, O Connor tried and failed sexual relations with another man, because, “you can’t pound a mound”. A third man, presumably one in a marriage or long-term relationship, is told that if he could only be bothered to do his fair share of the household chores, then and only then will she agree to bedroom activity.

The show pulls no punches in its exploration of what it is to be a single woman, when many others of their age are now married or otherwise cohabiting. It’s rare to come across genuinely amusing toilet humour, for instance, and I can only wish Sexton and O Connor well with their television series. There aren’t any further details about production, filming or broadcast dates – I assume the focus for the time being is on getting it written. There may be a bit of a wait: Sexton will shortly resume her role as Sloane in that amazing musical, Bat Out of Hell, as it plays Toronto from mid-October to Christmas Eve 2017, and as has been well publicised, that show returns to London at some point in 2018.

Regardless, given the lack of proper context, the scenes work very well. The opening sketch was not far removed from the actual callousness and lack of tact that performers are subjected to when auditioning for roles. The punchlines had some people in the audience openly gasping, as the show plunged straight in at the deep end with the sort of hard-hitting comedy style, gloriously irreverent and brimming with passion and assertiveness. That it didn’t let up until the very final song is immensely commendable.

Four stars

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