Great show, great performances

Spend Spend Spend, book and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene, music by Steve Brown at the New Wolsey until Saturday.What a wonderful surprise.

David Henshall

Spend Spend Spend, book and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene, music by Steve Brown, The Gallery Players, at the New Wolsey until Saturday.

WHAT a wonderful surprise. No, not the tale about Yorkshire's famous pools winner - that's old cloth cap, luv. I mean the way they've set it to music - beautiful melodies that get right under the skin of the piece and sweep you along like a paper boat in a bubbling stream.

It's more or less sung through with witty, poetic lyrics and a lot of laughs. The true story of how Viv and Keith Richardson won £152,319 with Littlewoods in 1961 (worth more than £3 million today) and blew it in four years, is not a happy one.

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It is patched with sadness and dark moments but they are never allowed to linger for longer than necessary and are quickly ushered away by some new stroke of cynical humour or a bawdy joke in this Gallery Players show.

The whole thing is narrated, mostly in song, by the older Viv looking back on a life that lifts her for a while out of her humdrum life as a hairdresser in Castleford into the heady world of the rich and then, finally, dumps her right back where she started.

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Samatha Horsfield is perfect in the part. She has exactly the right voice, clear and strong and, as the young Viv, a sparky Amy Restall, acts out their booze-racked rags to riches ups and downs, Horsfall is rarely a static bystanding yarnspinner. She inserts herself into action and relives the moments of joy and pain with her younger self. It is often very moving.

The two Vivs duet beautifully together, particularly in Who's Gonna Love Me, which unites them in grief when husband Keith is killed in a car crash. Viv marries five times but Keith is the one she loved and the only one who loved her. The rest, she says, like her dad, were bastards.

It is difficult to imagine a more reckless pursuit of happiness with money wasted on pointless luxuries and parties for hangers-on who openly despise them. But when the troubles come, Viv is always able to pick herself up and carry on - often with some handy North Country maxim.

Everywhere looks the same through the bottom of a glass, she says in New York and, at a particularly loveless moment: “Sex is like dusting - if you don't do it for a long time you don't notice the difference.”

Jonathan Mudd sings a good Keith, notably in the touching Canary with it's coal mining analogy, and Norman Rutterford is a grittily unpleasant dad to Viv. But this is very much an ensemble piece full of amusing or dramatic cameos of sneaky bankers and taxmen, wives, tarts, miners, vicars and many more.

The songs, ballads and anthems come as a continual delight; the dancing and choral work is first class in production numbers like Spend Spend Spend and the whole show is given strong backing by the orchestra under the direction of Richard Healey.

David Henshall.

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