Originally premiered as part of the Manchester International Festival in 2011, and recently commissioned for a BBC2 single drama, Victoria Wood’s That Day We Sang has been tenderly tweaked and lovingly adapted to take centre stage as part of the Royal Exchange’s festive family offerings.
Primarily set in 1969, we meet some of the original children who’ve been reunited by Granada TV for a special documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Manchester School Children’s Choir’s 1929 recording of Henry Purcell’s Nymphs and Shepherds. We’re introduced to two of the original children in the choir, now in their fifties, PA Enid (most definitely NOT a secretary) and insurance clerk Tubby (a fan of threp’ny bits but not of yogurts), who soon begin to realise despite their beige and lonely lives that the best may be yet to come.
Running alongside these scenes we’re transported back to 1929 to enjoy the thrill and excitement of featuring in the choir which is beautifully brought to life by the 25-strong children’s choir featuring youngsters from across the Greater Manchester area. Special mention must go to the excellent William Haresceugh, who takes on the role of Jimmy, the young man destined to become warm-hearted Tubby in later years. These scenes are nostalgic and humorous, with the hilarious bible quoting Mr Kirkby (Craige Els) doing his utmost to control the children for firm but fair choir mistress Gertrude Riall (Kelly Price).
As you would expect Victoria’s Wood’s script offers up opportunities for some delightfully comedic acting…
Award-winning writer and all round national treasure Victoria Wood stays true to her wonderfully witty, warm hearted humour and offers up laugh after laugh in this moving piece. The affection you feel for the characters is immediate. Moving effortlessly between 1929 and 1969 the two stories are beautifully entwined. The production sits well in the unique setting of the theatre with Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom using her skills and knowledge to ensure this special space is used to its full potential, the intimacy of being so close to the action adds more uplifting sparkle to this nostalgic treat.
As you would expect Victoria’s Wood’s script offers up opportunities for some delightfully comedic acting, largely coming from Sally Bankes who takes on two roles, Dorothy Brierley, former choir member who’s ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is second to none, and Pauline, Enid’s gossipy work colleague who’s always on a diet, (hot water and lemon today with potted beef and water biscuits tomorrow) Bankes is perfectly complimented by a strong performance from James Quinn (Frank Brierley/Mr Stanley) whose near explosion at the disappearance a box of mint Matchmakers has the audience howling.
The songs penned by Wood feature her instantly recognisable comic rhyming and are pure perfection, charming, clever and brilliantly delivered, after all there’s not many people who could come up with the line “Would you like to grapple with gammon and pineapple”. Wood also gifts our leading lady Enid (Anna Francolini) with a totally tantalising opportunity to unleash herself from the constrains of her girdle and reveal to us her innermost wants and desires with the help of a tall, dark and handsome Tango dancing stranger.
That Day We Sang is an absolute must see, this superb show will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling that even a triple layered Berni Inn Black Forrest Gataux couldn’t compete with.
Dean Andrews (Tubby Baker) and Anna Francolini (Enid Sutcliffe) are perfectly cast, meek and mild yet instantly likeable you desperately want things to work out for them, from trips to the Wimpy to a slightly awkward lunch on a bench at Piccadilly Gardens their love story is fascinating, tender and as Enid would say, totally ‘joyful’.
Showing at the Royal Exchange until 18th January, That Day We Sang is an absolute must see, this superb show will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling that even a triple layered Berni Inn Black Forrest Gataux couldn’t compete with.