Betty Blue Eyes is a porky charmer


Don't be fooled, because Betty Blue Eyes is rather more than A Private Function with songs.

by Allen Therisa in Musicals

Praise the pig
Praise the pig


A musical opening up of the 1984 movie A Private Function, 2011's Betty Blue Eyes brings the biting satire of Alan Bennett's cinematic script to the stage in a musical that is caustic, touching and invigorating all at the same time.


Written for the stage by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, with music by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, Betty Blue Eyes reflects the hypocrisy, frustrations and realities of the post-Second World War British class system. Staying close to A Private Function's plot, the musical follows the pignapping of an illicit porker, as it is prepared for a culinary feast in an austerity-stricken northern town organised to celebrate the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten.

As well as building upon the raucous comedy of A Private Function, Betty Blue Eyes adds a layer of pathos to the tale and a mediation on the suffering endured by the British public during and immediately after World War II.


A Private Function found critical success and a passionate following through its sharp script and nuanced performances, particularly by Maggie Smith and Michael Palin. Betty Blue Eyes on its initial outing went one better, with Sarah Lancashire, who is smart, funny and sexy as Joyce Chilvers, and Reece Shearsmith as the modestly heroic Gilbert Chilvers, complemented by the Stiles high-energy score and Drewe's witty lyrics.

It's a cracker, alright.


Betty Blue Eyes opened at London's Novello Theatre on 13 April 2011 and was directed by Richard Eyre on its first outing. As well as Lancashire and Shearsmith, the original cast featured David Bamber (Doctor Swaby) Jack Edwards (Mr. Allardyce) and Ann Emery (Mother Dear), while the voice of the show's animatronic pig, Betty, was provided by Kylie Minogue.

Despite positive reviews, the musical closed, however, on 24 September, after a run of six months. Following this, an American premiere took place at the Music Theatre of Wichita in Kansas in 2013 and a new production then opened in 2014 at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, ahead of a UK Tour.

In 2018, a German-speaking production also opened at the Musiktheater Linz in Austria titled Betty Blue Eyes - Das Musical mit dem Schwein.


For anyone who has seen the movie, waiting for the much-loved line "sexual intercourse will be in order" does not disappoint when it finally arrives. Before that, the songs Magic Fingers, Lionheart and The Kind of Man I Am are touching, Fair Shares for All and A Private Function are nuanced and satirical, while Nobody and Pig No Pig are both show-stoppers in the best sense of the word.

Oh, and then there's that very cute cameo by Minogue, voicing the porcine cast member that closes the show.


Apart from its telling criticisms of the suffocating British class system and opening up of the (now forgotten) devastating impact of World War II and its austerity aftermath on British citizens, Betty Blue Eyes also has something to say about the power of the dignity of the human spirit.

It's a salute, ultimately, to determination and human dignity in the face of challenge and adversity (what we used to call "grit"), as well as to love and humour when both are most needed.

Which, all in all, could not be more relevant today (and possibly in the years ahead).

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