To tie in with the 50th Anniversary of Britain's longest running soap, Coronation Street writer Jonathan Harvey has adapted, or should I say, condensed the best bits for the stage in the style of Reduced Shakespeare meets The 39 Steps. On the night I attended, Street stars including Barbara Knox, Shobna Gulati and Debbie Rush were out in force to support Harvey. Thankfully, for them and the fans, Corrie! is an absolute riot.
The play features many of your favourite characters from yesteryear and today including some iconic females from Weatherfield, including; Gail Platt, Rita Sullivan, Raquel, Bet Gilroy and Elsie Tanner. Sadly, one of my favourites - Carla Connor is featured all too briefly and her life is chronicled through an ill-judged dance piece which is amusing to begin with but soon runs out of steam. Harvey clearly loves writing for the show and respects these characters, so the odd flourish can be forgiven when you look at Corrie! as a whole - because for the most part it succeeds.
This is also due to the cast, who are having a blast on stage playing a multitude of roles, without flinching. Some of the vignettes are too short meaning that some poignancy is lost in translation. Katherine Dow Blyton is a scream as Deidre Barlow - complete with scrunched neck and oversized specs and she delivers her lines like bullets ("Ken... you're so boring") and hits the target constantly. But her Hilda sketches are so rushed that one of the saddest scenes - the loss of Stan is rendered a bit lifeless.
Thankfully though, Harvey has chosen scenes wisely and there is one truly gobsmacking moment featuring the iconic Elsie Tanner stood in silhouhette which reminds you why love Coronation Street in the first place. In Harvey's hands, Tanner becomes a classic film noir character and as a result, the late Pat Phoenix gets the respect she deserves from Josie Walker's dazzling tribute.
I loved the knowing winks and nods to the fans, such as references to Tracey Barlow's childhood. "She's upstairs playing her tapes", says Deidre. Of course, we all know she was up there for years and emerged as an evil temptress. Leanne Best has a field day playing her descent into darkness. Simon Chadwick plays her bookish dad - Ken with ease and switches to Roy Cropper just as effectively. Matthew Wait's Steve McDonald is ingenious as his wide-eyed stare makes you nod in recognition of Street Cars' famous owner.
The only mute point is the use of a narrator. As a device. it helps link scenes together, but Charles Lawson (Jim McDonald in the show) seems under-rehearsed, so often - the show comes to abrupt ends when he starts to read. These sections would be better served by a recording or less material for the actor to read.
But, the bottom line is this - is Corrie! worth you leaving the sofa for? Well, thanks to Jonathan Harvey's faithful, respectful, affectionate and very funny script, five fantastic performers, Liz Ashcroft's functional set (including Alan Bradley's killer tram and Martha's barge, which gained a round of applause) and Fiona Buffini's solid direction, if you are a fan of the cobbles - this is right up your street.