Review of TALENT at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London

If you remember the 1970s, the period nuances in this hilarious musical will make you cringe.

Backstage at a local talent contest in a Mancunian nightclub, would-be singing star Julie (Leanne Rowe – pictured) calms her nerves with Babycham swigged from the bottle. Soon her need for a pee conflicts with her determination to avoid the exboyfriend who has been inconveniently hired as accompanist and a plastic hat has to suffice as potty. This is mere background humour, the counterpoint to a dialogue between Julie and her plump, put-upon friend, Maureen (Suzi Toase) which veers dangerously between cynicism and pathos, but is always funny.

We have come to expect no less from writer and director Victoria Wood, even if this play was dashed off in a few days in a bedsit in 1978. It makes for a fine night out at the Menier in 2009, and not just for its nostalgia value.

None of this is as memorable, however, as the evocation of an era in which many uneducated women faced the bleak prospect of marital drudgery enlivened by the merest whiff of escape via sexual favours and a modicum of talent in the entertainment world.

Suzi Toase gives a wonderfully understated performance. Leanne Rowe exudes a different sort of desperation beneath many layers of blusher. Mark Curry does loathsome, predatory male in a few pelvic thrusts. Thank goodness we are all thirty years older.

SUE WEBSTER, courtesy of This Is London magazine.

Book tickets to see TALENT at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London