Theatre Review: THE TOYBOY DIARIES – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

Sharif Afifi and Johanne Murdock in THE TOYBOY DIARIES

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

Sex sells, as Wendy Salisbury’s bestselling memoirs The Toyboy Diaries clearly demonstrates. When the glamorous grandmother released her tales of love, lust and very young men back in 2009, the book became an international best seller, spurning a sequel, and now, a brand new British musical.

Charting the hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking sagas of mid-life dating, The ToyBoy Diaries follows twice-divorced Lily who inadvertently finds herself with a much younger man. From “Tom the Tender”, an estate agent in his early 20s with whom she stayed with for seven years, to “Sam the Submissive”, an entertaining one night stand, Lily finds herself opening the door to a whole new world of wicked and wild sexploits as she enters into affairs with toyboys of every conceivable specification.

Warm-hearted, funny and outrageously sexy, The ToyBoy Diaries is a witty and highly entertaining romp through twenty years of liaisons. Director Tania Azevedo and writer Simon Warne bring Salisbury’s easy, unpretentious and clever turn of phrase to life on stage, while Andy Collyer’s witty and upbeat score captures the fun and humour of the piece.

For a musical that is packed full of sex, sass and heartbreak, chemistry between the characters is absolutely essential on stage and thankfully, the talented cast don’t disappoint. Vivacious, sexy and glamorous, Johanne Murdock shines in the lead role of Lily, the glamourous older woman refusing to recline into respectable middle-age. Murdock brings warmth, pathos and humour to the character, who without this, could easily be seen as a promiscuous WHIP (Women who are Hot, Intelligent and in their Prime).

Johanne Murdock in THE TOYBOY DIARIES

Olivier Award-nominee Nicola Blackman equally entertains as Lily’s best friend Penny, particularly in the second half of the show when her character starts to loosen up and enjoy a few nights of passion of her own.

But it is Matt Beveridge, Sharif Afifi and Alistair Higgins who provide the most entertainment as the ‘toyboys’, effortlessly shifting from “Hat Trick Patrick” to “Matt the Monstrous” in incredibly funny and entertaining ways.

In terms of pacing, the first half could do with a little trimming with a couple of songs seeming to exist to fill time rather than adding to the story. Most of the musical numbers also sound very similar in style and as a result, aren’t particularly memorable, albeit entertaining at the time.

Alongside the lashings of raunch and tongue-in-cheek humour, there’s also a personal story of Salisbury’s quest for fulfilment and determination, which begins to challenge society’s ideas about the role of women in middle age.

Sex, sass, heartbreak all in one show, what more can you want?

4 out of 5 stars

THE TOYBOY DIARIES runs at Hope Mill Theatre until 10 February 2018.

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