Prisoner Cell Block H: The Musical

Previewed 23 October 1995, Opened 30 October 1995, Closed 13 January 1996 at the Queen's Theatre in London

Adapted from the Australian television series - the musical Prisoner Cell Block H in London starring Lily Savage and Maggie Kirkpatrick

Having 'acquired' the contents of a Fosters' lorry (which took a 'wrong turning' into her manor) Lily found the lucky ring pull which won her a trip for two to Australia. But, rooted by the Fickle Finger of Fate, Lily clashes with Aussie authorities and is slammed up in the infamous Wentworth detention Centre For Women, where she finds herself at the tender mercy of the evil Officer Joan Ferguson, better known to the old lags as 'The Freak'.

Can a fragile English flower survive the harsh climate of Australia's Cell Block H? Can Lily clear her name? Can she assume the role of Top Dog? Can see work the laundry press? Can she ever!?!

The cast features Paul O'Grady as 'Lily Savage' and Maggie Kirkpatrick as 'Jean 'The Freak' Ferguson with music performed by The Well Oiled Sisters. Concept, music and lyrics by Don Battye and Peter Pinne, based on the TV series created by Reg Watson. Directed by David McVicar.

"To call this a terrible show is to miss the point. Prisoner is supposed to be bad. A musical version of such prime kitsch is hardly going to tamper with a hit formula. Ham acting, cardboard sets and D-movie scripts have turned this tatty Oz jail soap into a cult... Grundy TV's Don Battye and composer Peter Pinne have created a barnstorming spin-off, effectively pastiching every pop style from R & B to gospel. The result is a one-joke show performed with tremendous gusto by a talented cast. Every cliché known to showbiz is parodied... A night of deliciously low camp in which new depths of tackiness are enthusiastically plumbed. It all depends on whether you're man enough to take it." The Daily Express

"Camp followers flocked to the deliciously named Queen's Theatre on Monday night to sample this bargain offer of two cult classics for the price of one. That Prisoner Cell Block H: the Musical worked was largely down to the personality of Lily Savage, the drag queen who has the makings of becoming the biggest blonde star this side of Marilyn Monroe... The Australian TV show has long been characterised as perfect student fodder - it's a definite advantage if you're not entirely sober when you watch it - and the stage show played on those trashy qualities... The show has clear cult potential. You can imagine student union bars across London standing empty as its usual habitués dress up in denim dungarees and yellow shirts with huge collars for a Rocky Horror-esque night out." The Independent

"Aficionadas of the Aussie women's prison TV drama will know what to expect. The show's writers have dispensed with any seriousness, kept the wobbly sets and daft plot, added some witty songs, a knowing irony and produced an absolute hoot... The lesbian subtext of the TV show has been fleshed out to wonderful effect: the show's highlight is Maggie Kirkpatrick's jackbooted warder The Freak doing an hilarious number extolling the pleasures of leather. The Freak takes over the governorship of the prison by her usual nefarious means but eventually gets her comeuppance. The excellent supporting cast manage to keep straight faces throughout, although the opportunity to ham it up must have been indecently hard to resist." The Guardian

"Whoever decided the Aussie TV series Prisoner Cell Block H was West End material should be locked up. The late-night soap set behind bars in Wentworth Detention Centre For Women is noted only for its disastrous dialogue, awful acting and wobbly walls. All this plus the cardboard sets, criminal performances and lousy lines, and a lot worse are brought to the stage in the camped-up musical version at London's Queens Theatre. Maggie Kirkpatrick flies halfway across the world to recreate the role of butch warder from hell Joan Ferguson nicknamed The Freak. But she needn't have bothered. She is out-freaked at every turn by outrageous Liverpool drag star and Big Breakfast favourite Lily Savage. Banged up for nicking a fondue set, prostitution ... and murder, Lily totters around the stage in six-inch stilettos, giant wigs, a denim micro-skirt and some glitzy outfits Shirley Bassey would kill for. But the whole show is no more than an elaborate excuse for some rude gags and unforgettably bad musical numbers. It's more Hollerway than Holloway as the songs are shouted rather than sung. This panto-style send-up lasts for little more than two hours but feels like a life sentence." The Daily Mirror

Prisoner Cell Block H The Musical in London at the Queen's Theatre previewed from 23 October 1995, opened on 30 October 1995 and closed on 13 January 1996