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Published 24 September 2009

Babycham, velvet bell bottoms, an amateur variety show and sleazy compère take centre stage in the revival of Victoria Wood’s 1978 comedy Talent at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Set in the Bunter’s Piccadilly club, the height of 70s Northern glamour, Julie and her frumpy friend Maureen are waiting backstage for the club’s talent show to begin, which Julie is hoping will help propel her to the dizzy heights of stardom, wealth and the Des O’Connor show.

With a constant supply of Babycham, port and lemonade and cigarettes, as Julie gets ready in her glittery boob tube and blue satin trousers, the night’s allure gradually wears thin as the girls meet bumbling magicians, ex-boyfriends and are invited to explore the back seat of the self-important compère’s white Cortina.

Suzie Toase steals the show as the prim and proper Maureen, smuggling Kit Kats from her handbag and continually quoting her parents, happy to stay in the comfort of her own home and not enter the dangerous world of men and excitement. In contrast Julie (Leanne Rowe), pretty and overly confident, is desperate to escape her office job, convenient engagement and a future filled with babies, stretch marks and gin and tonics.

A revolving stage, the set transforms from the red velvet curtains and fading glamour of the club to the dingy, beige dressing room, where old bottles lie on the grubby floor and dated posters litter the walls. With platform shoes, ruffled shirts and flared, psychedelic cat suits, the play is a comic tribute to the 70s, with frequent cultural references and jokes about the decade.

Although some of the comedy may go over the heads of younger members of the audience, while the garish costumes might have dated, Talent’s down to earth wit hasn’t. Peppered with skits and simple, comic songs, Talent feels more like a variety show than a play with the Menier Chocolate Factory’s intimate space the perfect setting for a night of Wood’s endearing humour.



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