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Talent review at Menier Chocolate Factory London

For this gently amusing revival of her 1978 play, Victoria Wood has upped the song count and added an intentionally gaudy new opening sequence to reacquaint modern audiences with the world of light entertainment in which she made her name.

These new musical interludes are, however, rather tepid in execution and never quite feel at home in what is otherwise a rather naturalistic comedy, if a rather slow-paced and structurally muddled one.

The play is set in the shabby backstage area of Bunter’s Nitespot, Manchester. Aspiring singer Julie is gearing herself up to perform in a talent contest and her dowdy friend Maureen has come along to provide moral support. The writing, which is weighted with seventies references, is full of Wood’s now familiar mix of the absurd and tragic, coupled with the banal and highly specific. The backstage scenes feel as if they have been drawn from experience, which might explain the somewhat episodic feel of the piece.

Certain narrative strands never quite take off – the arrival of Julie’s former boyfriend promises tension but is just left to wither – and the key relationship, between the two women, is not all that well developed, even if the two central performances do a lot to steer around these obstacles. Leanne Rowe and Suzie Toaze are warm and winning as Julie and Maureen, roles originally played by Julie Walters and by Wood herself.

Production Information

Menier Chocolate Factory, London, September 17-November 14

Author/director
Victoria Wood
Producers
Menier Chocolate Factory, Old Laundry Theatre
Cast includes
Leanne Rowe, Suzie Toase, Mark Curry, Mark Hadfield, Eugene O’Hare, Jeffrey Holland
Running time
1hr 35mins

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