Victoria Wood directs her 1978 play Talent
at the Menier, about the backstage buildup to a talent show at Bunter's, a grotty Manchester club. The production's had some pretty scathing reviews, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Yes, the references may have dated but the whole thing now comes across as a period piece and a lot of the gags still work. Unfortunately there are a lot of awkward silences as the two leading roles were of course written for Wood herself and Julie Walters, and while Suzie Toase in the Wood role of Maureen has a very good handle on timing the lines, Leanne Rowe as Julie (the Walters part) has a lot of her gags fall completely flat. Happily things are lifted every time the supporting cast (which in itself is quite kitsch, as it includes Hi-De-Hi
's Jeffrey Holland and Blue Peter
's Mark Curry) come on and the comedy gets a bit broader. The show's frequently stolen though by Mark Hadfield as the hangdog magician's assistant Arthur, also doubling, in drag, as Mary, a character with a speech direct to the audience that reminded me a lot of Wood's "Connie can we check that?" classic. The show does betray the fact that Wood was inexperienced when she wrote it (the attempts at seriousness are jarring, and a lot feels unresolved by the end.) While the gags that work really
work, it's very hit-and-miss (I'd say as much as 50/50) which at times makes it uncomfortable to watch. However I went along with my mum, my sister and vanessaw
, all of whom said they really enjoyed it. I thought maybe they were being polite but when I even suggested it was hit-and-miss Mum and Penny told me to stop being over-analytical so I guess they meant it. So that's three votes in the production's favour, against my one for "not convinced."Talent
by Victoria Wood is booking until the 14th of November at the Menier Chocolate Factory.