Starter For Ten company Credit Marc Brenner

Image: Starter For Ten company credit Marc Brenner

Fingers on buzzers, here’s your starter for ten.

A brand new British musical has arrived at Bristol Old Vic. Based on the bestselling book by David Nicholls and the 2006 film.

The story, is centered around lovesick Essex boy Brian (Adam Bregman), who does well on his A-levels and heads off to Bristol University, with a life-long ambition to win the gameshow University Challenge. He wins along the way, and loses along the way and ultimately finds out the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

David Nicholls, who is having a top year with another of his books ‘One Day’ being turned into a hit show on Netflix, has created a story and characters that are so well-loved for a reason. This is a story, full of heart and highly relatable for that period of your life where you are finding out who you are and who you want to be.

Firstly, what struck me about this new show is how laugh-out-loud funny it is. The cast delivered act after act of feel-good fun, with hilarious songs, one-liners and perfect comedic timing. But there were poignant and heartful moment smattered throughout as well, leaving me with a serious case of the warm and fuzzies and a great big smile on my face.

Adam Bregman (Brian), Eubha Akilade (Rebecca) credit Marc Brenner

Image: Adam Bregman (Brian), Eubha Akilade (Rebecca) credit Marc Brenner

The all-new original soundtrack by Hatty Carman and Tom Rasmussen was incredibly catchy and already felt so familiar, taking influences from the music of the 80s when the story is set. I picked up on nods to the Smiths (the guitar in certain songs has a distinctly Johnny Marr edge to it), The Cure, Kate Bush, and synth pop songs reminded me of Bronski Beat and Duran Duran.

The cast were sensational, I was impressed by every single one and their heartful portrayal of their characters and their singing prowess. This truly is an ensemble where everyone shone brightly, and I was gripped by each person’s performances.  

Saying that, Bake Off star Mel Giedroyc did have some scene stealing performances, particularly her portrayal as Julia Bland, the game show production company boss with her hilarious solo act. She really is a joy to watch on stage.

Mel Giedroyc (Julia Bland) and The Challenge Team credit Marc Brenner

Image: Mel Giedroyc (Julia Bland) and The Challenge Team credit Marc Brenner

This truly is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while and to catch it this early out the gate feels exciting and fresh. I urge you to book tickets to see it here, with this cast, at Bristol Old Vic while you can, as I have a feeling this production has a bright future.

Book and lyrics co-written by Emma Hall and Charlie Parham, with an ’80s-inspired original score and lyrics by Hatty Carman and Tom Rasmussen. Directed by Charlie Parham. Watch Starter for ten | In Rehearsal here on YouTube.

Starter for Ten runs at Bristol Old Vic until 30 March and tickets are available from £10. Age guidance 12+


Starter for Ten at Bristol Old Vic
Starter for Ten

Adapted from the hilarious novel by bestselling author David Nicholls and the popular 2006 film, Starter for Ten is a bright, big-hearted new musical.