SPC reviews: The Ministry of Biscuits

Sussex Playwrights reviews:

The Ministry of Biscuits

By Brian Mitchell and Philip Reeve

‘Stop! Think before you eat that biscuit!

Is it in any way fancy?

If so, then you are a criminal!’

Twenty something years ago, two chaps sat in a Brighton cafe and started to spin a musical tale of a shy, innocent young biscuit designer with a vision and a crush – and the Ministry of Biscuits was born. It travelled to Edinburgh, where The Stage called it ‘top-hole musical comedy’. Now it’s back for a second freshly polished revival; something different for Christmas, and a tour to follow.

It’s set perhaps somewhere in the grey decade between the end of WW2 and the birth of rock & roll – Spitfires are a fairly recent memory, though there’s no rationing, the Russians are a threat and all foreigners faintly suspect, so it’s hard to tell. Think Salad Days meets Brazil, with a nod to Ealing comedy style.

The show captures that pompous old world authority-mocking we used to see in Dad’s Army, Monty Python and the Goon Show, when ministers wore tailcoats and Bakelite still ruled.

The cast play and sing live in the Brighton production, and there will be additional backing track support on the tour. The Lantern Theatre felt rather small for the production – I’d love to see it expand, and the news that it will come to Brighton Open Air Theatre next year is an intriguing prospect.

Co-writer and composer Brian Mitchell’s bluff Machiavellian minister delivers a Gilbert & Sullivanesque turn, while Dave Mounfield’s flashy conman spinning tales of not quite true wartime exploits plus mad costume changes sparked real rich-tea-stuffed-in-mouth hysteria moments.

Amy Sutton and Murray Simon are a delight, singing clever, wistful and stirring little odes to love and loyalty, Britishness, betrayal and biscuits with delicate charm and heartwarming silliness.

Look out for the original pastiche public information film by Ben Rivers.

Philip Reeve’s science fiction novel Mortal Engines is about to get the Peter Jackson big screen treatment – we can’t wait!

The Ministry of Biscuits is on at The Lantern Theatre Rock Place, Kemptown until December 30th, with a UK tour to follow.

Details, dates and ticket information

Philippa Hammond