Shannon Matthews: The Musical | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
review star review star review half star review blank star review blank star

Shannon Matthews: The Musical

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Making a musical about Shannon Matthews – the nine-year-old girl whose 2008 kidnap was orchestrated by her mother Karen in a bid to make money – was always going to create press outrage.

That it’s getting laughs from the childhood trauma of a real person without their consent is clearly an ethical minefield. For the record, Shannon is not depicted here. The show only vilifies Karen, her accomplice Michael Donovan who concealed the girl, and her partner Craig Meehan, who was convicted of unrelated charges of possessing child pornography discovered during the investigation.

Still, the audience for this venture from puerile bad-taste merchant Kung & The Gang is self-selecting. They have not only decided that the subject matter is OK, it’s what they actively want. And for them, the conclusion is probably – and surprisingly – that the show is not offensive ENOUGH.

Sure, it has plenty of moments of depravity, from Karen’s endless uncouth euphemisms for her genitals to a chorus line featuring Prince Andrew and Jimmy Savile. Most of the tasteless highlights come from the songs, dumb earworms with catchy lyrics such as ‘Shannon ain’t dead (she’s under my bed)’ and ‘I’ve got a plan, based on Maddie McCann.’ And there’s a silly running joke about adding ‘aged nine to every reference to Shannon that’s not even crude. 

At its best, this is a Viz-style celebration of swearing, as befits Kunt’s strong cult reputation. His gloriously juvenile solo act, built entirely on singing rude words and often about celebrities, has become a staple guilty pleasure of the Fringe. But however X-rated the lyrics and subject matter in those shows, there was always a sniggering naivety about the way he blew such raspberries at wrong ‘uns in the news.

But dedicating a 75-minute show to one story loses so much of what makes Kunt transcend the torrent of c-bombs into something cheeky, almost sweet. Now we must consider story, a relatively flat narrative that keeps the songs too far apart. That Karen was motivated by the chance of getting reward money and a sniff of fame, the satirical point the whole venture is built upon, is quickly established and doesn’t go anywhere.

Adding a narrative also means jokes now have a context, not least the reminder these are real people, however awful, not just punchlines. And making tacit references to Jeremy Kyle’s freak show exploiting the worst of the worst of Britain’s underclass, depicting them all as feckless benefits scroungers, doesn’t land quite so well when that’s exactly what this show is doing. 

Cut together, the musical numbers here would have made a perfectly outrageous seven-minute routine for Kunt’s normal act. Expanding it tenfold dilutes the impishness and exposes the weaknesses in this brand of offensive humour.

Shannon Matthews the Musical is on at Just The Tonic At The Caves at midnight.

Review date: 17 Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Just The Tonic at The Caves

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.