My first confession is that I do very much heart Michael Ball. In this show, which begins as a semi-immersive meeting of the Michael Ball fan club, I was grateful not to be picked on as writer/performer Alex Millington turned to audience members in the intimate space of the Old Red Lion Theatre, asking them about their experiences with ‘the blue-eyed boy from Bromsgrove’, for fear that I would rouse the wrath of our protagonist, whose love for Ball explodes into rage at anyone who comes closer to the man himself than he can. This all stems from his character’s relationship with his brother George, bound together by a love of Ball; Ball is the only thing that he has left of his brother, and so he becomes increasingly possessive and unstable. Millington’s interactions with the audience are genuine and spontaneous in their deadpan humour, injecting the evening with real fun and enabling the familiar format of a one-man monologue to feel fresh and unpredictable. He also has a great opportunity to get the audience on side, getting volunteers up onstage and the whole theatre fist-pumping to ‘One Step Out of Time’.

Of course, the conspicuous plasters around his fingers and surreptitious glances at the door reveal that there is more to our protagonist than meets the eye, and from very early on it becomes clear that this one-man play is an unlikely pairing of Michael Ball meets Joseph Fritzel – a mixture so barmy as to be weirdly exhilarating. Moments where the audience, as fan club, are left waiting whilst Millington tends backstage to his victim, or when he suddenly seems to bristle with offence at an audience response, really shine, as he mixes humour with abrupt discomfort. Where the show struggles is when it dips into the more traditional mode of the one-man play, reciting a monologue of trauma to the audience – in this case, the loss of a sibling and parental abuse. It has become somewhat cliché for the one-man play to chart early trauma to explain a character’s present state, and whilst there is nothing wrong with it, it is a little tired and overfamiliar, particularly when contrasted with the more immersive bookends of the show. 

Millington’s performance as Michael Ball obsessive turned kidnapper is hilarious and frightening by turns, but he still finds it difficult to lift the play out of the predictable rut it finds itself in in the centre. He does, however, deliver a superb turn as the title man himself. When this show sings – if you’ll forgive the pun – it really sings, but it just needs a little injection of the excitement at each end into the centre to lift it to its full potential.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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