Manchesterford's finest soap opera is coming to the London stage. Victoria Wood has written a musical version of the legendary cardboard drama, and the show is due to open at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 9th February next year for a limited 16-week season. The cast includes all your favourite Acorn Antiques stars, including Julie Walters, Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston, as well as top support from Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey and Sally Ann Triplett. And, sssh, but I have a copy of the script! And it's very good.
BABS: It certainly sounds like a genuine Picasso, Martin, but I'd have to see it to be sure.
The first act comes live from the rehearsal rooms at the Enoch Powell Arts Complex, Sutton Coldfield, where the producer is struggling to explain his modern plot revamp to a stupefied cast. There are a lot of jokes about haemorrhoids (and several references in homage of Crossroads), and the whole act is a fine sideswipe at the onward march of the politically correct. I will admit that, after a first skim read, I was a little concerned that the Acorn Antiques sparkle had been lost. But I needn't have worried because the fine detail is hilarious and sets the scene perfectly for what follows.
BERTA: Where's Mrs O? It's only the thought of her macaroons that's kept me going!
Act two opens on 'traditional' Manchesterford High Street, complete with wool shop, drapery, ironmongers, red pillar box and, of course, your favourite antique dealership. Mrs Overall (who'll be played on stage by both Wood and Walters) is at the very heart of the business, but even her teatray and fresh-baked parkin can't stop the onward march of progress. A series of Wood-esque musical numbers (nobody else could get away with rhyming sandalled with man-handled, or erogenous with old-codgerness) interweave with a moral tale about multinational retail franchises. And there are some unlikely romances, some long lost relatives and an awful lot of tweed into the bargain. I loved it.
BABS: What was that terrible noise? It sounded like a tray of coffee being dropped on someone who's just been electrocuted.
Devotees will be pleased to hear that the number of mentions of 'macaroons' is in double figures, including a song of their own and a starring role in the dénouement. I'd love to tell you more, but that would be desperately unprofessional. There are a multitude of exquisite lines in the playscript (like the one about Clarice Cliff, the one about fair-trade coffee and the one about wartime rubber shortages) but I've been well-behaved here and have only used quotes from the original TV series instead. But, on the basis of what I've read, I shall definitely be buying (bloody expensive) tickets for the play's West End run. It looks like a classic to me, Miss Berta, and no mistake.
MRS O: Why don't we all have a mug of my delicious home-made sherry and a couple of sausage dumplings?