[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 11 February 2005, 11:29 GMT
Press reviews: Acorn Antiques
Victoria Wood's new musical Acorn Antiques opened at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket on Thursday night.

The spoof soap has been adapted for the stage, complete with its original television cast, including Julie Walters as tap-dancing doddery cleaning lady Mrs Overall.


Julie Walters in Acorn Antiques - The Musical
Julie Walters has received praise for her role as Mrs Overall

Whether it's because of love for the lady herself or recollected joy in the TV sketches Victoria Wood wrote for her, Julie Walters only had to jerk and teeter on stage for me to dissolve in uproar.

Indeed, is the musical play Wood has derived from her spoof of an antique-shop soap opera as funny as some of us hoped? Well, alright, sometimes so.

Yes, the lines keep coming, though those within the songs tend to be masked by the music, which is a pity, for Wood is as sprightly a lyricist as she is dramatist, composer and everything else.

The result is mischievous, good-natured, charming. But a comic masterpiece? Not really.


Since I'm rarely at home in the evenings, I've never actually seen Victoria Wood's satire on second-rate soaps.

But judging the musical purely on its own terms, it strikes me as a load of slack, self-indulgent rubbish scandalously overpriced at 65 for a stalls ticket.

What is being satirised? On one level it is a certain kind of cruddy soap built on outrageous coincidence, wobbly sets and even wobblier dialogue.

But sending up the second-rate always smacks of smug condescension and camp knowingness.

Victoria Wood may have a gift for dirty one-liners but it seems to me a pitiful waste of her talents to attack something that was inherently absurd in the first place.


Acorn Antiques the Musical
Sally Ann Triplett, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie (right) also star
There are those of us who, in the mid-1980s, measured out our lives by the weekly instalments of this sublime send-up.

Even now we pat our bosoms and say: "Mrs Overall, c'est moi."

And the verdict? Well, put it this way, I haven't laughed as helplessly since the day I heard Bernadette had closed at the Dominion.

It's the supreme cheek of the endeavour that will irritate some people and exhilarate the rest of us.

It is a bit self-indulgent, but Walters gives the show heart as well as hilarity and there's a blissful performance from Celia Imrie whose permanently pursed and reproving Miss Babs still moves around as if she has a theodolite up her bum.

This show gets away with murder gloriously.


Acorn Antiques began life as a series of three-minute spoofs... but the little acorn has now grown into a mighty oak - and I'm afraid that is the trouble.

Though there are undoubtedly sublime moments, and Julie Walters and Celia Imrie work their socks off in performances that are often blissfully funny, the whole show with book, music and lyrics by Wood, seems ludicrously overblown.

A comic idea that may have stretched to 90 minutes has been sadistically extended to almost three hours.

If (Trevor Nunn) had insisted on cutting some of Wood's often windily repetitive script and disposing of some of the less memorable song and dance numbers, the show would have been both sharper and funnier.

As it is, Acorn Antiques too often seems an interminable shambles.


Surreal, daft, weird, wild, as loopy as a halfwit's handwriting: Victoria Wood's contribution to the canon of West End musical theatre grabs many adjectives, but "understated" is not one of them.

This is a mad production, much indulged by a fanatical audience the night I caught it.

By the end they were standing to clap to the music and laud and magnify their stage heroes.

For all its silliness, Acorn Antiques could well become a cult hit. Some parts are undoubtedly a scream.

Mrs Overall sings onto the stage
02 Dec 04 |  Entertainment
Acorn Antiques set for stage
02 Sep 03 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific