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Intimate and atmospheric, The Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark is the ideal venue for Victoria Wood’s play Talent, perfectly creating the illusion of Bunter’s Niteclub, a rather seedy workingman’s entertainment spot ostensibly situated in Manchester. The story centres on Julie, a wannabee cabaret singer with a cupboard full of skeletons and her larger than life friend Maureen as they wait backstage at the club to take part in what they expect to be a life changing talent contest.

Finding themselves thrust into the midst of amateur turns while staving off the sexually harassing advances of the unscrupulous compere as he offers the talent spotters equivalent of the casting couch, the girls have to decide whether their destiny really is in the stars! Originally scripted and set in the late 1970’s by Wood, this play has her hallmark stamped through every phrase from the wonderfully witty one liners to the random observations on life which have become so much her trademark. Directed by the author herself, this latest revival has been extended to incorporate additional songs and parodies re establishing the era and giving rise  to a hysterical opening sequence in which cast members including Jeff, form a seventies pop group Triple Velvet.

Dressed as the name implies in bright blue velour suits, matching platform shoes and vibrant yellow shirts complete with retro ruffles, the effect of the ensemble is greatly added to by what can only be described as’ hair creations’ and sees Jeff bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young Jonathan Ross. The transformation to George Findlay, an endearing but none the less talent less magician, inspires a delightfully played gentle yet enthusiastic portrayal, combining comedy with subtle undertones of mimicry, greatly enhancing the depth of character.

Mark Hadfield as his hapless and unlikely assistant Arthur, provides much amusement but is at his best earlier in drag, as the deadpan and long suffering club manageress steering her way through the challenging pitfalls of table planning.

Suzie Toase in the role of Maureen, originally played by Victoria Wood, supplies several show stopping moments while Leanne Rowe creates a highly creditable account of Julie, the secretary desperate for fame and fortune in the world of showbiz. The same can be said of Mark Curry as the sleazy club compere and Eugene O’Hare in the form of Mel, Julie’s ex boyfriend, bringing an unexpected blast from the past. Although short, this early work, which won Wood the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright in 1979, superbly blends humour and poignancy resulting in warmth and reassuring sense of comfort derived only from the knowledge that true comedy is always funny no matter when it was written.

Eugene O'Hare, Jeffrey Holland & Mark Curry as Triple Velvet

Jeffrey Holland as George Findley