It's difficult to say precisely why Promises and Lies is such a mess, but it fails on several fronts.

As a piece of music theatre, it's a flop because the music doesn't pass muster.

As a slice of in the raw "street" drama, it comes across more as Go and Play Up Your Own End on smack than West Side Story.

As a rounded narrative, it's implausible, hackneyed and dull.

Although I'd be the first to give props to UB40 for remaining true to their roots, despite global superstardom, I'm also of the opinion that most of their recorded output in the last 20 years has been bland, reggae-lite.

To build a whole musical around 12 of their songs is foolhardy. And, besides, many of the songs in Promises and Lies weren't even penned by the Campbell brothers.

The plot is barmy. Rudie, a teenage minx, lives on the street with her junkie boyfriend Cuddles who's always promising to get clean and take her off to a better life.

Inevitably, he's involved in petty crime to pay for his next fix and she's turned to prostitution to pay for their prodigious balti habit. Strangely, we're supposed to sympathise with these people.

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The set is based on Broad Street, with a night club and cash point machine and a Big Wheel to boot.

In a truly unbelievable plot, Cuddles steals a handbag from Irish Breda who's in Birmingham for a hen night and just happens to be Rudie's mum. Breda's a wreck because she gave up her daughter in Ireland 18 years before.

Club bouncer Randall falls for Breda who has a possessive, insensitive husband called Dave. They spend a night on a street bench and a spin around the Big Wheel puts Breda's troubles into perspective.

Meanwhile Dave enlists Cuddles, who's got a maggoty arm by now and needs it amputating, to find Breda's bag which contains her daughter's hospital birth tag. Cuddles agrees, if Dave finds Rudie, who he really really loves.

Standard farce devices abound with mum and daughter narrowly missing each other in the street, but it all comes good in the end.

Then, there's the utterly dire sub plot involving Marcus, a boozy pimp who sets Rudie to work in his S&M dungeon alongside Fedens, an illegal immigrant who is only working in the vice trade to fund a lawyer to win her a British passport.

These scenes, I'm afraid to say, I could only watch by squinting through fingers. The laughter around me at some of the more risque moments was of derision rather than good humour.

Many of the songs were belted out in the club singing style. David Burt's Marcus closed the first half by rendering one of the Yoob's better numbers, The Earth Dies Screaming, in a manic bluster that was painful to hear.

Julie-Alanah Brighten slaughtered Red Red Wine by belting it out like a boozy slapper. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Even when the singing was in tune, there wasn't a single character with a voice to treasure.

I suppose you have to hand it to the cast for soldiering on against the odds and Ryan Gage's Cuddles was as close to likeable as it gets. Beyond that there's zero to enjoy.

That's two hours of my life I'll never see again, and for that I'm bitter.

Andrew Cowen

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