There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis continues at Momentum Playhouse at St Stephen’s until 30 August.
Star rating: two stars ★ ★
It’s 3 March 1960 and word is out that Elvis Presley will be on a plane landing at Prestwick to refuel. For the ladies of the Kilmarnock Elvis Presley Fan Club, this is the biggest news ever.
Devised and directed by John Plews, written by Jennifer Selway, with musical direction by Jos Slovick and stage design by Leah Sams, There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis is very much a play with some songs rather than musical theatre per se. The script falls between two stools, in my view: trying to impart a great deal of knowledge about Elvis Presley while telling a personal story centring on two women having a relationship with the same man.
Split into two acts, Act I is set in 1960 where the girls of the fan club are lucky enough to meet Elvis at Prestwick, accompanied by Rob, a journalist (Scott McFarlane) – the man shared between Zoe (Hannah Howie) and Ruth (Sarah Moss). The script is peppered with acoustic renderings of some Elvis songs sung by the girls in Ruth’s bedroom and a three-part a cappella number by the Americans at Prestwick Airport.
At the end of Act I, we discover that Ruth is pregnant and Rob will marry her. However, Zoe suspects that Ruth had more than a kiss from Elvis Presley when both disappeared in the Prestwick Airport building.
Act II is the build up to Vince’s 21st birthday. Vince (named after a character Elvis played) is Ruth’s son – now an Elvis tribute act, who also works in a Kilmarnock Chip Shop. Ruth and Rob have recently separated, as Ruth finally found out he’d been seeing Zoe all the years between then and now. This has happened off-stage, which is a shame as it could have been a genuinely dramatic and interesting scene. The party is a bit of a melt-down when a drunken Zoe sings the title song before Vince takes the finale of the show dressed as ‘Las Vegas Elvis’.
As a show, it is clearly some kind of a fan letter to Elvis and it attracted some Elvis fans in the audience. Perhaps the show should have a different title so that when ‘There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’ is finally sung, it has some impact and even wit. The Elvis fans felt slightly appeased by the finale, but overall this is a lacklustre play. That being said, with decent female roles and a bit more development, this could be a hit for community theatre groups to stage for local audiences.