One Christmas my tipsy aunt got it into her head that a race in the snow was the perfect thing to wake us up after dinner. We were, in a word, reluctant. It was cold, we were comfy: this wasn’t what we had signed up to do. But her unbridled enthusiasm eventually got us all out in the snow and we ended up having a lovely time. That same wonderful feeling of getting together in a group of mixed ages to do something silly is created by going to see Barbara Nice.
Who knew someone so unthreatening could wield so much power? One promise of a soft mint and she has a huge builder pretending to be a squirrel with her on stage.
Barbara Nice, a creation of Phoenix Nights actress Janice Connolly, is the exact manifestation of that aunt. She is optimistic, enthusiastic, and a little bit naughty. Talking about lifestyle magazines, high street shopping and the good old days she pulls the audience to her side with each delightful anecdote. The show is, as the title suggests, a raffle and there are prizes to be won but that is the smallest part of her charm. Instead what shines through is this incredibly likeable character and her mad accordion handbag.
The audience interaction is her biggest strength. Who knew someone so unthreatening could wield so much power? One promise of a soft mint and she has a huge builder pretending to be a squirrel with her on stage. The group chanting is a spectacle to behold. Three words from Barbara and the audience are singing together for a full minute. Every seemingly improvised whim of Barbara’s is met with eagerness and completed with aplomb. It turns out even adults like to play make-believe.
The only thing stopping it getting the full five stars is that at times the show is harking back to a lost age and loses some of its appeal with younger audience members. Barbara manages to entertain the strangest of ideas but making you nostalgic for a time before your birth is impossible. However seeing the way these middle aged strangers are grinning and singing together did warm my heart. I can’t say you’ll laugh hysterically at Barbara Nice, but there wasn’t a single moment I was not entertained. And who knows? You just walk away with a tin of mushy peas to remember her by. Piggin’ brilliant!