*Corrie!* (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until June 18th)
Camp, hilarious, and with a touch of damp-eyed nostalgia - that’s the trip down Memory Lane you can expect in Jonathan Harvey’s much-acclaimed stage show *Corrie!* celebrating 50 years of the favourite TV soap.
As someone who as a lad was hooked on Coronation Street until about 1978, when Ray Langton walked out of number 5 leaving Deirdre and Tracy to fend for themselves, I wondered how much I’d appreciate this light-hearted romp down The Street - especially as the show’s producers have insisted this is not just for the diehard fans to enjoy.
This touring production takes what is one of the Britain’s great institutions and pretty much turns it into Carry On Corrie - but it works all the better for being so fast-paced and tongue in cheek. Many series icons appear in addition to the familiar characters (from the Rovers Return to the Ogdens’ infamous “muriel”), and I guess you’d have to have been stranded somewhere in the Siberian tundra for five decades to be clueless as to anything portrayed here.
Narrated by a variety of former cast members during the tour - Brighton has the lovely Gaynor Faye, who played Judy Mallett in the series in the 1990s - the show consists of six actors playing up to 12 roles each, reminding us of some of the classic storylines and best-loved larger than life characters in the show’s colourful history.
Harvey has, of course, actually written for the show, so has the necessary respect for the Weatherfield regulars, but also the knowledge of how best to mickey-take lovingly. And although there are a couple of misses in the resulting mix, the whole (directed by Fiona Buffini and with wonderful design by Liz Ascroft) is a surefire hit.
It’s almost unfair to pick out favourites among the performers, not least because each one has at least a couple of characters that they nail superbly and impersonate with frightening accuracy.
Simon Chadwick almost manages to out-Barlow William Roache, such is his stunning portrayal of Ken (and he also turns in a fine Jack Duckworth and sinister Richard Hillman), while Jo Mousley wickedly brings to life the likes of Hilda Ogden, Ena Sharples, and Deirdre - unsurprisingly a big audience favourite.
Leanne Best is a particular scream as Gail, with every mannerism observed faultlessly, while Peter Temple manages to switch effortlessly between his roles, whether playing barmaid Bet Lynch or lovable Roy Cropper.
Lucy Thackeray makes Elsie Tanner the undisputed Queen Bee of Weatherfield women and is also superb as prim Annie Walker, Hayley Cropper, Vera Duckworth, and Martha Fraser - complete with barge - among others, and Daniel Crowder is in fine form with Mike Baldwin, Stan Ogden and Steve McDonald among his collection.
*Corrie* provides such a whistle-stop tour of The Street that one wonders if some kind of sequel can’t be on the cards - so many great characters and storylines are missing it just seems unfair! But it’s an ingenious, rib-tickling delight, as much a gem as the series to which it pays such warm tribute.