Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Sarah Crown
Theatre Correspondent
9:00 AM 3rd July 2021

Still Talented After 43 Years

Oh to be back in the theatre again after what seems like an eternity…but what an evening of great entertainment and ‘Talent’ as one of Victoria Wood’s seminal works was given the South Yorkshire treatment nearly half a century on from when it first aired.

‘Talent’, Wood’s first play with music – first performed at the Crucible in 1978 - centres around and explores the relationship between two long-time friends, Julie, an attractive young mum, and dowdy overweight Maureen.

Lucie Shorthouse as the comedy queen’s yummy mummy, has entered the weekly Friday night talent competition at Bunters club and is hopeful of fame, showbiz glamour and stardom, whilst Maureen (Jamie-Rose Monk) tags along for moral support.
Photo by Chris Saunders
Photo by Chris Saunders
Sadly for Julie, the club holds few prospects - just a shabby dressing room and a blocked toilet. There is a surprise encounter with Mel, the trendy boyfriend who abandoned her as a pregnant schoolgirl eight years earlier, and the unwelcome attentions of the oily compere played by Daniel Crossley, who has a wonderfully convincing penchant for sleaze.

He precedes his seduction by telling her: "You have got a mediocre voice, a terrible Lancashire accent, no experience and no act," before tempting her with the promise of a spot on the Des O'Connor Show in exchange for her spending the following evening with him ‘whilst his wife is away’!

However, when his amorous advances with Julie fail, he turns his gaze on Maureen offering her 20 minutes in the back of his white Cortina if she consents to removing her panty girdle.
Photo by Chris Saunders
Photo by Chris Saunders
Needless to say, the play predates the ‘Me Too’ movement although the compere may yet appear in a South Yorkshire courtroom near you on historical charges!

It is not hard to imagine the riotous ups and downs of the ensuing plot – lots of wit, affectionate sarcasm and belly laughs – and the audience loved it, keen to release the frustrations of 18 months in solitary confinement.

However, whilst Lucie Shorthouse and Jaime-Rose Monk as the main protagonists, were great, personally, I found it hard to move on from the ‘in my head’ performances of Wood and Walters who are big shoes to fill and massive personalities to follow.

That said, the production was perfect for the current Covid circumstances: staged in the round with a minimal set, no fancy lighting effects and costumes of the period – tight bell bottomed trousers for the men, platform shoes for the girls and as Maureen’s ‘dad’ suggested ‘girls with perms (that) look like barmy sheep!’

As you might expect from Victoria Wood, the play is littered with wit and sharp observations of the minutiae of ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Similarly, fans will recognise the tempo of the songs as being classic Victoria Wood compositions.

Who else could get away with a line like: ‘love bites round her nipple but poor Maureen all she got was a raspberry ripple!’ And we all laughed. No one was offended. Wood’s genius: funny but never offensive or cruel.

The performance was well received by the audience and the theatre has taken great care to implement the various current Government restrictions re social distancing and the like. The evening was well organised, so, if you’re a theatre goer and desperate to once again see a live performance, take a deep breath, buy a ticket and get to the Crucible for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

After all, who else but Victoria Wood could rhyme ‘misadventure with dentures!’ You won’t be disappointed.

Crucible Theatre Sheffield
Until 24th July 2021 (Live Streaming 7th July)