In the North East we have this thing called the Metro. It’s just an overground basically but we’re pretty happy with it, it’s practical and affordable and makes getting into major cities pretty easy. It’s a great public service. Isn’t worth singing about, but it’s pretty good. Really shouldn’t sing about it though. Definitely not worth writing a musical about or anything.
Tyne & Wear Metro: The Musical is a musical written about public transport.
Not just any public transport, but sort of lovably janky public transport. Somebody wrote a musical about the Metro. Not just somebody – award winning composer Benjamin Till – whose other works include A1: The Road Musical & Coventry Market: The Musical.
There’s a lot in here. Geordies. Mackems. Bagpipes. A marching band. A choir. A ferret. There are multiple raps. The content is certainly there it’s just all absolutely horrifying.
Like all musicals there’s a cast of colourful characters, including:
And many many more.
This is an ensemble piece with a roll call which does absolutely no favours for the widely held perception of people from the North East as frumpy drunken weirdos.
Knowing the BBC they probably spent an iceberg of license fees on this nightmare.
Watching this is like that – a nightmare, one of those really bad ones where you can’t move your legs. Where each new development is more confusing and terrifying than the last. There’s so much to talk about that I’ll never get to it all.
Picking the exact moment Metro: The Musical goes off the rails is difficult. It could be within the first five seconds when the word “1980” is sung out of key. But let’s be real, it’s when she shows up:
I’m sorry if this is your Gran or something, but your Gran can’t sing and she sucks. Could they not find better elderly people?
I think at that point it was pretty clear the project was beyond salvage and from here each new scene only compounds the tragedy.
We could talk about “escalators” lady all day. I mean seriously – what the hell was that all about?? The first time you saw an escalator was the year 1980? You know Harrods has had one since 1898? Your about 100 years late on this one pal – and besides – it’s just an escalator, a big set of fucking stairs, not exactly the Hagia Sophia is it?
And as for the “so high / so bright / so clean” comment, no. It was probably clean on day one, after which it presumably looks like it looks now – caked in dirt and piss and fag ends – like all escalators. Because let’s not forget they are a pretty common phenomena.
Things get really choppy around the third act, where they start layering different lines over one another and you can’t hear what the fuck anyone is saying. You see when you stack two people singing the same lyrics that’s called harmonising. But if they’re singing entirely unrelated and overlapping lines that’s just the worst thing ever.
I’m looking at you two.
I will give this credit for two things: 1) Despite being an official production they more than once mention how easy it is to travel without buying a ticket, which until recently it absolutely was because the date was written in tiny font and none of the stations had ticket barriers and 2) The scene with the kid dancing was kind of cute.
That’s really it though. Metro: The Musical is staggering because every single creative decision is wrong and the handling at each stage is completely inept. Nobody did a good job on this. I’ll at least cut the cast some slack since they’re just civies having a laugh and not professional performers. It’s those managing the project that deserve a slap.
The backing track sounds like muzak, the lyrics are doggerel, the staging is awkward and the direction is wonky as hell. People miss their lines, mime out of time, and generally seem to have no idea what the hell is happening, which is fine because neither did I. Then everything is lathered with terrible auto-tune.
This was probably commissioned in 2009 or 2010 so I’m going to pin this whole thing on Labour and their public sector budgeting. Thanks a bunch, Gordon Brown, for investing in essential public services – we end up with this.
Of course this being the BBC, a publicly funded company, some hero called Martin made a Freedom of Information request for the lyrics:
Fortunately the Beeb complied and provided the full lyric sheet. Unfortunately they clearly are not the official lyrics. Just look at these unforgivable errors:
Clearly when the request came in all who had worked on Metro: The Musical had been driven into exile or sent to work the salt mines until they collapse from exhaustion and die, and so some poor intern was given the thankless job of transcribing the lyrics by watching the Youtube video over and over again.
However they do at least confirm that yes you heard that right, she really did say “lend the ear that wipes the tear away“.
That leads onto the final and perhaps most confounding failure of Metro: The Musical – it doesn’t tell us anything. What is actually good about the Metro? Does it bring people together? Could you find the love of your life on the Metro? I suppose. You could also get shived by a gang of hoodies at Palmersville or sit in human shit too. There is no coherent message, which despite the many, many failings of this production, is the real underlying problem.
If you want to celebrate the Metro, why not collect personal accounts of things that have actually happened: testimonials by the people who use the Metro, then make a short film out of it. Instead of a musical? Just an idea.
All this complaining but I can’t deny my life is changed. I’ve watched this probably hundreds of times, and each time something new and hilarious comes to the fore. This is a gift, and I present it to you the reader. Your life begins now.