29 May 2016
Review by Deborah Banasko
My friend and I were keen to see this show as we are both fans of one of the lead actors in the show Chrissy Rock, who used to star in the TV show Benidorm.
We parked on a side road less than 5 minutes walk from the theatre, as parking is free after 6pm. There is also an outdoor carpark just 5 minutes walk away. The Victoria Theatre is in a prime town centre location on the corner of Fountain Street, and whilst it may look relatively small from the outside it has a deceptively large auditorium.
As you enter, the foyer is very traditional in decor, with a snacks kiosk to the right and a bar to the left. We were served at the bar in less than 5 minutes despite it being busy, and were able to order interval drinks in advance. I always find the staff warm and helpful, and they seem genuinely happy to be there.
There were plenty of toilets and the facilities were clean, as was the main auditorium. The large stage could be viewed from seating arranged over 3 levels, with beautiful decor and architecture. The legroom was perhaps a little on the tight side but to be expected from an old theatre.
The stage was designed to resemble a rather old fashioned office, and whilst there was a good attention to detail with various props it was all rather bland so as not to distract from the performance.
The show was set in Newcastle and revolved around three cleaning ladies, Elsie (played by Chrissie Rock), Gladys (Leah Belle) and Olive (Dolores Porretta). Elsie was the more gregarious character despite her cheating ex-husband, but she had an obsession with ageing and death. Gladys was the traditional “elderly lady” whilst long-standing Guide leader Olive is the brains behind the trio, but is hiding a secret about her perfect life.
The ladies are being forced out of their jobs by their bullying boss David, so they come across an alternative way to make money. They set up a phone sex line called “The Telephone Belles” operating from the office during weekends, with Olive finding ingenious ways to divert the calls to the office phones and take payment. So the ladies give themselves new identities as Madonna, Marilyn and Kylie so that they can take to the phones.
Chrissy Rock got the show off to a hilarious start with her sharp delivery, sarcasm and impeccable timing with the one-liners. The actors were natural and perfectly cast.
Hi-lights for me were Gladys referring to the men calling up her sex line as “son”, and her fancy dress outfit to allow her to get into the character of “Kylie” on the phone. In fact she stole the show for me, but in fairness to the other ladies a lot of this was due to the character she was playing and the lines she had been given. That said, she was fantastic.
The second half was hilarious from the offset, as we learn that the sex line work has boosted Gladys’ own sex life with slightly unfortunate consequences for her previously boring husband Billy. She is animated and witty as she tells the tale, and the entire audience were in raucous laughter.
There were a few more serious scenes relating to age and relationships within the show, and although it was a slight juxtaposition amongst the humour, I believe it worked well and provided more depth to the characters and story. Even in these scenes there was always a joke to be made, as Elsie states she would just like to live long enough to see the end of the DFS sale!
The end to the show is simply amazing, with a rendition of a well-known song by the ladies carried out in their own unique way. However the biggest laugh of the night had to be awarded to the office boss David… I will never listen to the song “The Big Bad Wolf” again without thinking of him. It is a finale not to be missed!
I fully expected an audience predominantly of ladies, but this show appealed to an equal mix of couples and groups of women. I was wrong to assume that my husband wouldn’t appreciate the humour as this show does have a wide audience provided that you aren’t offended by continual references to sex, sexual jokes and innuendo as well as a small amount of swearing. The whole thing was fun and typically British humour, and the laughs just kept coming. I have to appreciate that this type of show will not suit everyone, the humour could be described as crass on many occasion but I feel that the show delivered what it says on the tin. If you like this kind of show, as I do, then it is a must see.
For other shows at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax visit www.calderdale.gov.uk/victoria.
Victoria Theatre, Fountain Street, Halifax HX1 1BP | 01422 351158