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THEATRE REVIEW: The Salon/ Royal Court

Hairdressing comedy blows hot but leaves Philip Key a bit cold

Published on November 5th 2009.

THEATRE REVIEW: The Salon/ Royal Court

WHAT did you make of THAT? I was asked immediately after the curtain came down on The Salon at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool.

It is a comedy full of crudities, local references, little plot and numerous stereotypes

It's the sort of question most critics dread. Particularly when it comes from people involved with the show. You can say it was great and get a happy response or tell them it was lousy and be forced to leave the theatre pronto.

On this occasion, describing the show as "That" helped a lot. It was very much a "That" sort of show.

A "That" show is one that appeals to many people because it is of a certain type but will not appeal to others who don't like "That" sort of play.

In the case of The Salon it is a comedy full of crudities, local (ie Liverpool) references, little plot and numerous stereotypes.

For those who find gay characters totally camp, young women always looking for sex and blokes after the same thing, it is likely to be hilarious. Anyone who has read Viz magazine and enjoyed cartoon characters like The Fat Slags and Sid the Sexist will recognise the people in this show.

Others who prefer wit, sophistication, good English and depth of character might be disappointed.That Salon has been written by one-time Liverpool window cleaner Drew Qualye whose writing skills included writing sketches for Hale and Pace before penning this comedy set in a hair salon.

The wafer-thin plot has the gay owner selling up after being abandoned by his male lover, the receptionist going through a divorce, a stylist having affairs with younger men and the beautician auditioning for X Factor.

The first act set in the salon Vicious Streaks is very much a setting up the story one in which not a lot happens and everyone seems to be hurling insults at each other.

There are a few good original gags, some old ones and lots of overblown performances.

Roy Brandon as the gay salon owner, Neil, goes way over the top in campness, making the character virtually unbelievable. His hairdresser would, in comparison, make the late Larry Grayson look butch. He flutters, minces and pulls faces that make no doubt of his sexual orientation. In one scene he even wears a a female wig and dress.

Then there is the up-front stylist, Sheila (the one who likes young men), who effs and blinds and tells it exactly like she wants it and is played by Lynne Fitzgerald in loud fashion.

Lynn Francis plays Carol, the receptionist whose marriage is going wrong, and plays it in a fairly straightforward way. She is the sad character of the comedy.

Eventually she gets mixed up with the shady character, Tony, played by Danny O'Brien in a way that got the females in the audience cheering with pleasure. An actor with a good figure, he made the most of it flexing his muscles, shaking his backside and generally gyrating in sexy fashion.

His female counterpart was Suzanne Collins who played the beautician and X Factor hopeful, Tia. She rarely stood still, wiggling her body and coming across as a sex machine. She has the physique to play the part, gloriously tanned, brilliant legs in a short skirt and a slim build. In the interval, I even heard women praising her looks.

James Spofforth as the salon owner's boyfriend, Paul (and later idiot customer), together with Nicola Bolton as various customers make up the cast.

This is, it must be said, a fairly crude comedy with many a suggestive line and plenty of swearing. Sophisticated it isn't.

It does get a splendid set from designer Mark Walters in which the salon is below an apartment which occasionally swivels into view.

There is a little bit of music (something the Royal Court comedies tend to include) and several one-liners which many might like to pass on to their mates.

It is directed by Bob Eaton, former Liverpool Everyman director, who in recent times has directed many of the hit shows at the Court.

This particular one has come from the Theatre Royal, St. Helens, where it was a massive hit. It could do the same business in Liverpool.

I just have a few doubts about it.

It's the sort of comedy where it might help to be "in the mood" before curtain up and where watching with similar-minded friends will help. It tries very hard and while the performances which are loud and noisy push it along, they cannot disguise the lack of genuine humour in the story.

It is a comedy in which character is all important. If you like these overblown characters, then this is the show for you. If you prefer something more substantial, you might be disappointed.

In the end, it is a comedy which will find an audience in Liverpool but never quite reaches the heights of some previous shows at this venue.

*The Salon runs until November 28.


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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Victoria StreetNovember 4th 2009.

I thought it was vulgar and crude in the extreme and I'm not an intellectual by any means. You don't have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to get bums on seats. New low

theatreluvvieNovember 4th 2009.

Couldn't have put it better myself, not for me, but as you say it definitely does have an audience, and love the idea the the Royal court really does it's bit to get the peeps who still think theatre not for them get a chance to give it a go. Loved 'Our Day Out' and looking forward to 'Merry Ding Dong'

DigNovember 4th 2009.

When are The Fun Lovin' Criminals or The Aussie Doors on at The Royal Court next?

AnonymousNovember 4th 2009.

Phil key might have thought that The Salon was the biggest load of garbage he has ever seen but what he failed to mention is that every other single person in the theatre loved it. Its just a shame that its just one mans opinion, but thats the one that gets into print.

AnonymousNovember 4th 2009.

Oh dear, it must be bad!

PaulNovember 4th 2009.

i thought it was very, very funny

Herbert CollingeNovember 4th 2009.

I thought it was the biggest load of garbage I've ever seen, but Phil Key appears to have been quite kind.

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