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Print Version

A new play by Jonathan Harvey
Directed by Fiona Buffini

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 9 Apr 2013 to 13 Apr 2013

Reviewed by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media], 11 Apr 2013
originally published in The Dominion Post

A confession: I haven't watched a complete episode of Coronation Street since Ena Sharples and Elsie Tanner were the queen bees of the Rovers Return. The few bits I have seen since then have been when I have been channel hopping. 

This 50th anniversary celebration stage show condenses the fifty years into short revue sketches performed very much as if it were a panto. It followed a year after there had been in the UK a musical version, Coronation Street – Street of Dreams, which had a character flying over the audience singing a song about longing to be in a cross dressing dance troupe!

The sketches include a student-like ballet (the complicated Connor family romances) and a mimed silent movie, both of which reduce convoluted plots that probably took weeks of television time into a few minutes. The show starts with the Narrator on duty at the Pearly Gates welcoming Blanche and it ends with Elsie, Ena and Minnie looking down on the street from above.

The glossy programme has some mind-boggling information: it lists, along with summaries of the main events of the past five decades, all the births, marriages and deaths on the street. As of 23 September 2012 there have been 156 deaths including those of Harry the budgie and Theresa the turkey. Heart attacks and car accidents are the most common means of disposing of characters. Death caused by trams, barges, and gas explosions are exceptional and they get presented, panto-style, on stage.

William Roache as the Narrator sauntered all over the stage reading from a large book as he linked the sketches together. He also had to watch James Lailey play Ken Barlow performing scenes from some of Ken's three marriages, his twenty-seven girlfriends and coping with his alcoholic son and his daughter who is a murderer.

The fifty-odd characters are played by six actors who are clearly expert quick-change artists, though none of them caricatured and made really funny any of the features (vocally or physically) of the characters that I can remember. The Coro fans in the audience obviously had no such problems; after all it was designed purely for them. 
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See also reviews by:
 John Smythe
 Adey Ramsel
 Janet McAllister (New Zealand Herald);