Entertainment & Arts

Cameron Mackintosh musical Betty Blue Eyes to close

Reece Shearsmith with Betty the pig in Betty Blue Eyes
Image caption League of Gentlemen star Shearsmith (r) plays chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers

Sir Cameron Mackintosh's musical Betty Blue Eyes will close in the West End next month following poor ticket sales.

Based on the Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray film A Private Function, the show will close on 24 September, six months after making its debut.

The musical sees Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith perform alongside an animatronic pig.

"I am enormously proud of Betty," said Mackintosh. "I know she will eventually have her day and another life."

The show tells of a small community in post-war Britain raising a pig to slaughter in honour of the 1947 royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten.

League of Gentlemen star Shearsmith plays a meek chiropodist who steals the swine at the behest of his social-climbing wife, played by Lancashire.

"It is very curious," said Sir Cameron. "After such amazing reviews and positive word of mouth, no-one knows the real reason why Betty couldn't find a bigger audience.

"We have been consistently playing to just over 50%, but it just isn't enough to cover the costs. Of course I am disappointed, but I'm not despondent."

Four-star reviews

The Guardian's Michael Billington praised the show when it opened in April, saying Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman's adaptation of Bennett's script was "better than the original".

The Telegraph and The Independent both gave the musical comedy positive four-star reviews.

But the BBC's Neil Smith had reservations, calling it "a musical without enough meat on its bones".

"This is a brave and unusual addition to the West End landscape," he wrote in April. "How long it will remain a part of it is anyone's guess."

Theatre impresario Mackintosh has produced some of the world's best-known musicals, among them Cats, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.

Betty Blue Eyes, which continues at London's Novello Theatre, was his first original musical for 10 years.

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