The evening opened with Mr Boo and members of the ensemble mingling amongst the audience as we people were taking up our seats, doing an alright job of creating the atmosphere of a Northern Working Men’s Club. So, in this introductory warming up of the occasion, we had a raffle, and Mr Boo personally welcomed my daughter and I with a handshake and his ‘you look like you’re from Girls Aloud’ line, and then, later on, we heard him repeating this to ladies sat at the back. Well, agreed Duggie Brown, it is definitely hard to keep up with being original if the show has been touring since last autumn. It was very nice to meet you!
The Coventry audience were enjoying the fun, one or two audience members a little too engaged in the role playing, obliviously happy to carry on expelling raucous laughter, and making jibes out loud once the play was underway – very strange. Nonetheless, comedy is difficult to get right and is a genre that can often divide opinion, but this play is extremely popular, a fine example of classic British comedy that many of us identify with from growing up.
Widow, Mari (Beverley Callard) lives with her reclusive daughter LV played by Jess Robinson (TV’s Dead Ringers, Headcases). Mari has largely failed to acknowledge any maternal feelings she might harbour deep down. Her affections go out to her new man, Ray Say (Simon Thorp) and her loyal friend, Sadie (Sally Plumb). Domestically she is doomed, so she drinks hard and never needs much persuading to go out.
Mari reveals the background to this play as much as the old songs which feature strong. Mari is the sight and sound, the comedy, and to some degree the tragedy. Callard boils over in this role. As for Robinson, she is, frankly, a Little Wonder! She is perfectly cast for this part; she has all the crucial attributes. She bewitches when she switches from the quiet girl who barely speaks, to the fire cracker of a performer impersonating those famous, often fragile, diva-type female vocalists from a golden era.
I liked the approaches taken in the show’s overall presentation, it was refreshingly different. We even played bingo after the interval! I experienced skin pricking, physical responses to the music – always a good sign, and to have emotion stirring lines in a piece that is mainly comedic, qualifies this of being the award winning play it so rightfully is. Clever set design and use of pyrotechnics and a great cast. What’s not to like?
Photography by Paul Coltas
***** 5 STARS