When I told my friends I didn’t quite get the appeal of The Great British Bake Off, it wouldn’t be a lie to say that it put a certain kind of strain on some of my friendships. “It’s just cake though,” I argued, “what’s so interesting about cake?” I was faced with a sea of faces who subsequently spouted their strangely patriotic anger at my refusal to watch the show.
The episodes I was subsequently forced to watch certainly did wonders to prove me wrong. It turned out there were a surprisingly large number of things you could do with cake, as well as a surprising amount of drama that could arise out of taking someone else’s ice cream out of the freezer.
Inspired by the amount of drama The Great British Bake Off managed to concoct from the premise of a baking competition, a group of MA Musical Theatre students from Guildford School of Acting decided to try their luck at creating a similarly dramatic musical based on this premise, and so The Bakewell Bake Off was born.
Alex Prescot, director of DULOG’s upcoming production of this musical, explains, “it was originally meant to be a small in-house production as part of their studies, but the director of the course, Julian Woolford, thought it was so good that it simply had to be seen by the wider public.” Woolford was right, and in 2013 it subsequently had two successful runs at Waterloo East Theatre and then at the Landor Theatre.
The Bakewell Bake Off seems well aware that no matter how great the British obsession with baking is, it is also a touch ridiculous. Joe McWilliam, playing Henrietta, best summarises the show: “it’s a new musical that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a really fun touch that so many shows lack!”
Asked to sum up their character in five words or less, the cast seem to really lap up the opportunity. Tom Mack, playing Herbie, describes him as a “pianist that never shuts up”. Lara Dolden, playing Flora, describes her as “disastrous yet extremely keen”. Joe McWilliam, playing Henrietta, explains his character as “definitely not a man”.
When asked what the musical is really about, the cast unanimously concur that it’s about “cake”. But is The Bakewell Bake Off really just about cake? When pushed further, they expose a real heart to the musical. Much to my relief, it turns out the show isn’t just about cake. Ros Bell, playing Susie Sunflower, explains that it’s “a celebration of the quirks of the British nature and our obsession with baking.”
Just like The Great British Bake Off, the show revolves around a baking competition, but its successes rely on a combination of other crucial factors. It’s about people too, and Prescot suggests that it’s also “really about accepting people who are different from you, as well as doing what you want to, even if the odds are stacked against you.”
It certainly has the quirkiness to appeal to the audience of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and considering its previous successes, there is little reason why it shouldn’t rise to the challenge of entertaining audiences again. It’s now up to DULOG to make sure they have the perfect ingredients to whisk the audience away.
‘The Bakewell Bake Off: A New Musical’ will be running at C venues (Venue 34), Edinburgh, from 5-22 August.
Tickets available now. For more information click here.
Photograph: Elissa Churchill