Victoria Wood’s name first came into my consciousness way back in the early 1970s when she had a regular spot on Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life, singing and playing self-penned topical songs. Within a very few years she had established herself as a comic writer/comedienne extraordinaire, and she continued to be a familiar face on our TV screens until shortly before her untimely death less than a year ago.
Most, if not all, TV tributes to this super-talented lady have consisted of archive material of Victoria herself performing, so a local company’s decision to base half an evening on such a well-loved icon’s work might have led to them falling flat on their faces. It didn’t, in fact far from it, and it was a real pleasure to watch those wonderfully written sketches being brought to life with such obvious love and attention to detail.
I didn’t know all of the eleven sketches but Victoria’s voice somehow came through loud and clear no matter who was performing that particular piece, so the likes of ‘The trolley’, ‘Music & movement’, ‘Skin care’, ‘Tattoo parlour’, ‘Groupies’ and ‘Turkish bath’ absolutely went down a treat, as of course did the best-known of all, ‘The ballad of Barry and Freda’, known to most as ‘Let’s do it’.
In part two we moved away from Victoria Wood to a pot-pourri of comic sketches. The majority were unfamiliar and one or two fell ever-so-slightly flat, but there were a few real gems glistening there, not least ‘Private wives’ (I don’t think that was a spelling mistake in the programme although Noel Coward would certainly have recognised one or two of the lines) and the rather gorgeous ‘Bold Sir John’, which I’m pretty sure is a Two Ronnies sketch. ‘Ballet warm up’ and ‘Crossword’ were great fun too, as was the decidedly weird ‘Rabid weight loss’.
This unique evening was directed by Barbara Evans (who also conceived it) and Jo Mansfield, with musical direction by Alastair Hume. They and their cast, together with all those involved in costumes, lighting, sound, props and stage management did a sterling job and did indeed ‘Bring me sunshine’ – what a great singalong finale number – on what had otherwise been a relentlessly gloomy day.