The late, great Victoria Wood apparently loved the word poncho. How fitting then that members of the audience at the closing event of the Liverpool Theatre Festival were provided with the rather undignified rain cloaks before enjoying an evening with cabaret legend Paulus?
It’s hard to imagine a more British scene. The night closing in, torrential rain pouring down on the Bombed Out Church and a group of Victoria Wood diehards chuckling about chippys, reincarnation and middle-aged sex (or the lack of it).
On one hand, Looking For Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood does exactly what it says on the tin. An hour or so of laugh-out-loud comedy and the hilarious music of the much-missed Northern comic. However, it’s also surprisingly poignant and touching. For two reasons:
Firstly, for the deeply personal reflections of both Paulus and Musical Director Michael Roulston. The pair’s friendship flourished when they discovered their shared love. And it isn’t just them. Quoting Victoria Wood is like a key or code for many gay men who grew up in a less accepting age. It’s hard to disagree with the Polari comparisons made in the show.
It would have been good to hear more stories of how people discovered or came to love the woman from Prestwich. It’s clear many people in this audience had their own tale to tell.
The second surprise is just how emotional some of these ‘comedy’ or ‘novelty’ tunes are. Crush would not be out of place in a teen tearjerker movie: a beautifully-penned rendition of the pain of unrequited love, an understated performance that brought a tear to the eye. Or was that rain dripping off the poncho?
Looking For Me Friend focuses on the strengths of its creators: the music. But the banter and sharing of sketch quotes between the two men on stage are joyous. The audience is left wanting more.
Paulus describes his show as proving what many have already known: that it takes two men to do the work of one woman, half as well. Oh, how we miss Victoria Wood. This show deftly and daftly fills the void.