Reviewed at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, January 2007
Milton Keynes Theatre
28 May-2 June 2007
Wed & Sat Mat: 2.30pm
"What does the future hold? Pain and UK Gold"
"You may not be over the hill but you're far enough up it to get a clear view of the top!"
These are just a couple of gems from Victoria Wood's script that make a visit to "Acorn Antiques - The Musical" such fun!
|Sara Crowe and Ria Jones|
Some 20 years ago Acorn Antiques was an antique-shop soap opera sketch on the Wood and Walters Show which took the mickey out of the wobbly sets and daft plots of some of the soaps of that time. Now, the show derived from those few minutes a week by Victoria Wood, is on tour after being a sell out in the West End some 18 months ago.
There's always a danger of translating something so well loved into another medium as you have to rely on both the affection for it and people's memory. It could therefore be difficult to recruit any new fans, and that may be why the first time round the critics weren't too impressed. But I found that while those who remember the sketches will find it a hoot, there is also enough in it to enjoy even if you're an "Acorn" virgin.
It's just a fun night. It's not deep and it's not heavy but it's so much more than jokes that just make you groan. The preposterous plot revolves around traditional shopkeepers, including those at Acorn Antiques, fighting the changing look of the High Street as it is taken over by franchises such as Hong Kong Thong, the Botox Booth and the Grubby Garter. Not so strange you might think, but when you add in a long lost triplet, a ludicrous living will, an engagement forgotten through amnesia that can only be recalled by a whack on the head and a stooping Brummie housekeeper who is fond of macaroons and you get the idea!
|Ria Jones as Mrs Overall|
But the mental stimulation that comes from the wonderful turn of phrase in Victoria Wood's writing, and the marvellous spoofs of famous West End musicals (I counted Chicago, Blood Brothers, A Chorus Line and Les Mis to name but a few) provide more than enough to get the brain moving.
I particularly enjoyed the comment about dieting fads encapsulated in the character of Tony the money lender (Alistair Robins) who was on the Fatkins! Following this path had led him into a sort of Faustian pact where as long as he had no carbs, he would also have no feelings, but crucially - he wouldn't be fat! So that's alright then!
The show still sends up the rickety sets and bad acting but in truth, you have to be really very good to pretend it's really bad. And this cast are really very good! It was an unusually large one for a touring company and they all worked well together as an ensemble, as they (purposely) missed cues and fluffed their lines and the jolly dance numbers were slickly choreographed by Stephen Mears.
Sara Crowe as Miss Babs was a wonderful comedienne and Ria Jones, who had the unenviable task of taking on Julie Walters' Mrs Overall role was superb, making a brilliant and closely observed job of the much-loved character.
It may not be the greatest piece in the world but the genuinely funny script is packed with enough entertainment and wit to make me smile throughout. It's a lot of fun!