Eye witnesses blamed Mr Batt - who admitted sole responsiblity for the lyrics, book, and stage designs and diminished responsibuty (as co-director) for nearly everything else - as chief instigator of the debacle. They said his attempt to musicalise Carroll's actionless fit of the nonsenses, in which nothing happens to a troupe of seavoyagers questing for a creature which does not exist, yielded little but epic scenery.
The trouble started almost at once when Philip Quast as the bellman appeared as a bearded Victorian Figure on a hydraulic platform high above the stage where the orchestra was seated. His tuneful, musical appeal "Who'll join me on this escapade, who'll break the safe routine" deceived the audience into believing that they were to be treated to real novelty.
One ashen-faced observer accused Mr Batt of conceiving novelty as an expensive jocular battery of giant computer cartoon projections of sea, ship, jungles and mountains, matched by lyrics and music that sealed no peaks. No allegory was glimpsed. A small contest was staged in which Mark McGann's fearful baker was juxtaposed with the brave heroic quester of Mr Quast (in fine and passionate voice) and Miss Veronica Hart's lively, erotic Beaver.
As the musical collapsed Mr David McCalllum's bland, frock-coated Carroll, acting as narrator of the verse was seen valiantly propping up the wreckage. Mr Kenny Everett, well cast as a man required to do next to nothing, was noticed sensibly clinging to the background and waving a cracked billiard cue In the manner of a man unused to bafi games. Those who attended the musical were reported to be as well as could be.expected.
He obviously sees it as a type of Don Quixote story in which the characters go in search of the Impossible Dream, but as the search itself is the whole of the story he has had to concentrate on the personalities of the search party - the impetuous and fool~ hardy Bellman, the instigator, the cautious baker, who battles against his forebodings, the Billiard Marker, representative of the take-a-chance school, and the Butcher, Banker, Bishop and Barrister, all seeing the quest according to their own lights.
It is a sung-through piece in the now almost obligatory manner, and most of the stage space is taken up by the huge orchestra, very much part of the overall scene under their singing and jesting Bandmaster Jae Alexander or, on occasion, Batt himself), attired in striped sailor jerseys. But it is what is done with the remaining stage area that will be the secret of its popular appeal, if any. In addition to the two levels occupied by the orchestra, there are gantries, bearing members of the company, which rise and descend and move forward and back and throughout the scenery and designs are projected, through 152 computer-linked projectors
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Treyor Nunn wrote a mega-musical based on T. Eliot's feline nonsense rhymes. And Mr Batt is perfectly entitled to hope for a hit based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem. The man who made pop stars of The Wombles is responsible for the music, lvrfcs, book, design and direction of a project that has taken eight years to develop.
But 'whereas Cats disguises its lack of a plot in a wonderfully imaginative song-and-dance. extravaganza, The Snark is all at sea without a single memorable tune to steer it safely to shore.
Mr Batt has cheerfully bunged a few ladies into the story. He has cast Veronica Hart in a bodystocking as The Beaver and given The Baker a wife. And what on earth are dancing girls in bowler hats doing on board?
The great achievement is its scenic wizardry created by computerised graphics. But I'm afraid the show is a Batty monument to one man's monstrous ego.
In the hunting of the Snark, based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem, he has taken on board the music, the lyrics, the book, the designs and the direction. I'm even told that on occassion he even condusts the orchestra
The exercise in creative cost-cutting does not, however extend to the musicals £2 million budget. As far as the overall look of the show is concerned it is money well spent. Lit by Andrew Bridge, the panorama od scenic delights constantly changes as Carroll's oddball collection of characters set off in search of the mythical snark.
As anyone who has read carroll's poem knows, what the intrepid travellers meet at journey's end isn't the snarl but the all-consuming boojum. And the dreaded boojum - in the shape of Batt's unispired score and plodding adaptaion effectively scuppers this costly, enervating enterprise
Philip Quast is in fine voice as the Bellman, David McCallum drifts in and out as Carroll and Kenny Everett is wated as the Billard marker. RIP