THAT DAY WE SANG
by Victoria Wood.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 18 January 2014.
Mon-Sat except 24-26 Dec 7.30pm Mat Sat & 23, 24, 27, 30 Dec, 2, 8, 9, 15 Jan 2.30pm 26 Dec 4pm.
Audio-described 4 Jan 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 14 Jan.
Captioned 10 Jan.
Post-show Discussion 1 Aug.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.
Royal Exchange feel-good Christmas show.
Is Victoria Wood a national Treasure of Alan Bennett proportions? She certainly shares his ability to create mood and character through mundane details. As here, where middle-aged Tubby and Enid’s relationship proceeds through various chain eating-houses in 1969, at first with the pompous Brierleys then alone.
Frank Brierley’s snobbishness leads Tubby – how easily he’s accepted the nickname – to escort Enid from the Brierleys’ obnoxious presence at a meal following from businessman Frank persuading TV to commemorate a 1929 recording of 250 Manchester children singing with the Hallé orchestra.
Wood catches Enid and Tubby’s tentative affection, clear-sightedly respecting their nervousness, once this has emerged from the TV recording razzmatazz and the temporary dominance of the sketchily written Brierleys, who – with Enid’s lascivious boss Stanley (what has James Quinn done to deserve such a double?) – are the weakest part of the script. In contrast, as their meetings proceed Dean Andrews has a smiling vulnerability in reaching out to Anna Francolini’s Enid, prickly in response, fearful of letting her emotions loose.
While Andrews has the edge in singing, with a fine tenor range, Francolini superbly judges Enid’s emotional tension, clutching her lunch-box as though accepting Tubby’s sandwich would constitute sexual depravity. The passion she fears breaks-out in a high-point as she rips away restraint, alone in her bedroom, with a fantasy image of herself as a passionate Latino lover.
There’s little space to develop the most interesting 1929 character. Gertrude Riall trained Manchester Children’s Choir, with results even Hallé conductor Hamilton Harty couldn’t match. Whether she had half the elegance Kelly Price brings the role, Riall was a determined, dedicated woman. As her assistant, the disciplinarian Kirkby, Craige Els eventually reveals a sympathy that overcomes the bitterness of dragging a war-damaged leg for 15 years.
After this, and the emotional lift of the children’s choir (among whom Sarah Frankcom’s production deftly points-out the nascent self-concern in young Frank Brierley), who could resist a post-show appeal for donations towards free tickets for would-be theatregoers? Yet in 1929 private donations weren’t needed, Manchester Council funding buses to take the children to join the happy throng.
Tubby Baker: Dean Andrews.
Enid Sutcliffe: Anna Francolini.
Frank Brierley/Mr Stanley: James Quinn.
Dorothy Brierley/Pauline: Sally Bankes.
Jimmy: William Haresceugh/Alex Starke/Joel Danziger.
Gavin/Jimmy’s Dad/Sir Hamilton Harty: Darren Lawrence.
Mr Kirkby/Commissionaire: Craige Els.
Mandy/Gertrude Riall: Kelly Price.
Sound Man/Lionel/Waiter: Aki Omoshaybi.
Camera Man/Bill/Waiter/Tango Dancer: Andy Brady.
Edna/Ann/Waitress: Faye Brookes.
Jimmy’s Mum/Waitress: Laura Medforth.
Hewitt: Elliot Reay/Joseph Taylor/Luke McCandless.
Fred: Samuel Williamson/Carter Shuttleworth.
Amelia Woodcock, Narney McGurrin, Cameron Overshott, Courtney Golaub, Daniel Silva-Stafford, Elliot Reay. Faris Kalim Barlow, Isabelle Woodcock. Isobel White, I’nae Gordon, Jemima Kerr, Jessica Nield, Kate Pearce, Mae Mackay, Marti-Jude Hall, Molly Wilkinson, Olivia Kitchenham, Robbie Freeman, Rose Joslin, Sebastian Hill, Thea Walmsley, Theo Jones, Tom Freeman, Willian Haresceugh, Zoe Rosa Jackson/
Alice Robinson, Amos Corns, Archie Pearson, Bella Woodcock, Cal Blakebrough, Charlotte Dowson, Daisy Andrews, Dylan Salmon, Eden Potter Williams, Finn Daly, Freya Moran, Georgia Timmons, Grace Morgan McKenzie, Jhoti Mahapatra, Kate Blakebrough, Malvika Arora, Mary Leach Baxendale, Mimi Cartwright, Naomi Smith, Olivia Moran, Ruth Leach Baxendale, Tom Buls/
Alice Mousley, Amira Jeffers, Chayo Malera Page, Daniel Lee, Elizabeth Cross Spooner, Eloise McDermott, Emily Prentice, Grace Shropshire, James Allen, James Prentice, Lily Dawkins, Lydia Wakelin, Max Measor-McMullen, McKenzie Kai Clarke, Molly Large, Natalie Hovnanian, Olivia Buckley, Tia Smiley, Tiffany McFarlane, Tuhina Rao, William Hamer, William Twist.
Director: Sarah Frankcom.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound: Peter Rice.
Orchestrator: Chris Walker.
Musical Supervisor: Nigel Lilley.
Musical Director: Ian Townsend.
Choir Master: Jeff Borradaile.
Choreographer: Sammy Murray.
Assistant director: Liz Stevenson.
Associate sound: Sorcha Williams.