Theatre review: Thalidomide!! A Musical

The Albany, Deptford, London and on tour: 24 November, Unity Theatre, Liverpool; 26 November, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham


Thalidomide? A musical? That’s right, a song and dance show set against the 1960s scandal of the drug originally developed by Dr Heinrich Muekter, which was marketed as a safe drug for among other things headaches and, of course, morning sickness, writes Mark Drinkwater.

But before long my companion and I were tapping our toes to catchy little numbers like Monster Babies! and Talk to the Flipper ‘Cos the Face Don’t Care (a reference to writer, composer and performer Mat Fraser’s short arms), all influenced by a host of musical genres from country to reggae.

Starring alongside the excellent Fraser, who in this raucous show has drawn on his and others’ life experiences, is Anna Winslet (yes, Kate’s sister). Both give us a potted history of the cover-ups and greed of the pharmaceutical company producing the “miracle” drug. This production, irreverent from start to improbable finish, will doubtless cause offence to some (indeed the show’s publicity gleefully reproduces quotes from the offended) but is worth seeing. Andrew Lloyd Webber it ain’t.

Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in Southwark, south London

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