Betty Blue Eyes come to Playhouse

Salisbury Journal: Haydn Oakley and Amy Booth-Steel. Picture: Robert Day Haydn Oakley and Amy Booth-Steel. Picture: Robert Day

A MUSICAL comedy about love and relationships is coming to Salisbury Playhouse next week.

Betty Blue Eyes is set in 1947 austerity Britain and is about a humble chiropodist, Gilbert Chilvers, played by Haydn Oakley, and his wife Joyce (Amy Booth-Steel).

When the invitation to the social event of the year fails to materialise, the couple resolve to do whatever it takes to get their fair share of the banquet’s centrepiece – an illegal pork roast.

“I was lucky enough to see the show in London when it was first on, and I’ve seen both Michael Palin and Reece Shearsmith play the part so I’ve had that as a kind of grounding,” said Oakley.

“He’s a loyal, very mild mannered guy who loves his wife very much but still manages to disappoint her far more often than he manages to impress her. That’s the struggle they have in their relationship.”

Fresh from his role with hit musical The Book of Mormon, which won four prizes at this year’s Olivier Awards, Oakley said he was looking for something new, exciting and creative.

“When I was offered the part I didn’t really hesitate in saying yes,” he said. “It’s just fantastic, with lovely songs, and it is heart-warming and life affirming in places.”

“The lovely thing with Betty is that, even though it has been done in London previously, we were given licence to do something new with it. It feels more inclusive and you get the ability to be more creative.”

He said he is looking forward to touring the country, working in smaller theatres.

“It’s a really nice opportunity to come to places like Salisbury.

I’ve never worked there but I’ve heard such great things about the city and the theatre.

“There’s a different kind of atmosphere with smaller theatres.

There’s something quite nice about being able to see people and know that they are there. You can hear all the little laughs and see the smiles. That closeness is something that in larger theatres you can miss.”

And the show has been well received by audiences so far.

“We’ve had fantastic responses,” said Oakley, whose theatre credits include Wonderful Town at Manchester Royal Exchange, The Secret Garden at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, and Passion at Donmar Warehouse. He has also appeared in Wicked and Spamalot.

“We’re all just looking forward to getting the show on the road, especially somewhere like Salisbury, and seeing what audiences think of it in different parts of the country.”

* Betty Blue Eyes opens at Salisbury Playhouse on Thursday and runs until May 17. Tickets at salisburyplayhouse.com or call 01722 320333.

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