The Palace Theatre – Manchester
By Victoria Wood
Having spoken at the public enquiry against the original Labour backed proposals to demolish the whole of the Free Trade Hall and and replace it with a building resembling a giant phallic symbol, I took particular delight in the thought that had it not been for me in my then capacity as Lib Dem Planning Spokesperson, and people joining with me and supporting a campaign to retain the frontage of the Free Trade Hall, the backdrop for this magnificent production by Victoria Wood would have by now been consigned to the history books.
Commissioned for the Manchester International Festival, the play is pretty much a love story about an insurance man called Tubby and his secretary girlfriend Enid and how their love blossomed when they met up on the stage of the Free Trade Hall forty years after they first stood there as children singing Nymphs and Shepherds with the Halle Orchestra (Manchester’s second oldest philharmonic orchestra).
The songs, the humour, the whole ambience of this show is Victoria Wood to the core, unmistakeable.
There is one very memorable song about dining at the Bernie Inn which, for all those who have done so, is an absolute must to hear. It captures the very essence of ‘high living’ in 1970’s Manchester with a tone of humour and candor that only Wood can truly master. This song should be sitting up there amongst her greatest works along with ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda’ and ‘Two Soups’ and of course from ‘Dinner Ladies’ the exchange between Tony and Jean of:
- “Tony: I quite like women in a sad, baffled sort of way! But can we get a grip? Out of a workforce of five, at any given moment one will have pre-menstrual tension, one’s panicking because she’s not, someone’s having a hot flush and someone else is having a nervous breakdown because her HRT patch has fallen in the minestrone!”
- “Jean: [Annoyed] That was a one off!”
The play is fast moving, witty from start to finish, and any movie director worth half his salt should have already been on the phone to Victoria Wood for the film rights and the big screen adaptation.