Venue: Theatre Royal
Where: St Helens

Following the lovelorn trials of beauty salon worker Carol and her disorganised, dysfunctional band of colleagues, The Salon combines acerbic wit with, at times, moving pathos and immediately transports the audience into a recognisable world in which they feel comfortable.

What Liverpool’s Capital of Culture should have done during 2008 was encourage new writers, actors and performers. However, such is the lack of foresight from those involved, this comedic gem has slipped through the city’s fingers and straight into the fortunate clutches of Jane Joseph and her emerging team of talent spotters.

If you enjoyed Lost Soul, Brick up The Mersey Tunnels, Good Golly Miss Molly or The Flags recently, then The Salon is a guaranteed winner for you and writer Drew Quayle deserves so much credit for his perseverance and the Theatre Royal St Helens so much applause for having the pluck and the talent to stage it.

Leanne Campbell gives a solid performance as Carol who is desperate to recover from having her heart broken but not so desperate to actually date anyone. Daniel O’Brien is bang on form as lecherous Tony, sometime chippy owner, sometime antiques dealer and full time egotist. Here O’Brien further cements his growing reputation as a comic actor and following up brilliantly his role of The Lion in Lost Soul.

Roy Brandon combines all his experience as a Pantomime Dame with that more recently gained through playing Dennis Twacky in Brick Up.. and gives the show its almost ubiquitous campness, alongside an understated but nonetheless impressive performance by Shaun Mason, who is quite scarily good in everything he does and deserves far more recognition than he actually receives.

Jasmine Joel is the karaoke loving, X-Factor wannabe Tia, who drips bitchiness and self-obsession to such an extent she could almost have the words WAG as a birthmark, but this delivers the vehicle for the true star of the show, Lynne Fitzgerald, who is just outstanding as the bawdy hairstylist Sheila; the kind of woman who would jump into bed with anything and only checking for a pulse as an afterthought. For sheer dreadnought dominance, hers is a performance to savour.

Downsides? The sound on this first night wasn’t all it could have been and perhaps the play was a tad too long at 2 hours 10 minutes, but these are pretty minor details in truth because, overall, The Salon  has the words “Hit Comedy” written all over it and is, in truth, an excellent night out.

-Chris High