Not even Flintoff can save this one...

Fat Friends in rehearsal
Fat Friends in rehearsal

REVIEW: Fat Friends –The Musical, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until Saturday, February 10.­

Freddie Flintoff was the most thrilling sportsman of his generation, a performer who lit up the crowd with his own special magic when he wrote his own script.

A shame then that he’s been handed such a leaden one here in this luke-warm tale of body image, love and loyalty.

It’s a show which takes more than a couple of hours to get to its final song, Love Who You Are – a perfectly-commendable sentiment. But think back to the sheer dazzle of Hairspray in exactly the same venue just a couple of weeks ago, and you realise just how powerfully that message can be delivered.

Here we are in the company of a gaggle of Leeds girls with hang-ups about their weight… and fed all sorts of dangerous nonsense by a slimming club owner out for herself.

Absolutely we need to be told to value ourselves, but the mouthy girls with hearts of gold aren’t necessarily the best vehicles. Is the show just too northern? Possibly not. Certainly it suffers from its crooked-house panto set which gives the whole thing a faintly amdram air which it never quite gets over.

Maybe it’s one for the girls. Maybe it will speak to those with body-weight issues.

But there’s no doubt the script is just too chuffin’ laboured – and the songs disappear as soon as you have heard them.

Jodie Prenger, X Factor winner Sam Bailey and Natasha Hamilton do their best – but there’s little that truly appeals here. Flintoff has got precisely the natural stage presence we’d probably assume from his TV work.

But Fat Friends needs to be rather lighter on its feet if the earth is going to move. Distinctly underwhelming. Oomph sadly AWOL.