Victoria Wood + Me

A deep familiarity with the beloved UK television star portrayed in the warm and witty solo comedy Victoria Wood + ME isn’t necessary to enjoy the vibrant impersonation of her by actor Mo Shapiro. With Wood’s permission to use her original sketches and songs, Shapiro spends 48 minutes as the Bafta-winning writer-comedian and, as of this summer, latest Star Baker on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off.

Shapiro has an engaging twinkle and beautifully crisp diction – the latter essential to interpreting Wood’s dialogue and lyrics, which are built on precise word choices full of plosives and alliteration.

Consider Mo Shapiro as Wood’s loyal sous chef, emulating her gestures (those pointy fingers and little sucks of air through her teeth) and dry, Lancashire delivery, while cooking up plenty of her own laughs as she expertly measures out the comic beats in Victoria Wood + ME. Even if you’ve never heard of Wood, Shapiro’s performance is tickle-worthy in its own right. That’s the strength of the material, handled deftly and respectfully by Shapiro.

But that’s not all, because Shapiro creates another layer, doing Wood in the guise of second character Gladys Winter, who claims to be Wood’s biggest fan because of parallel life tracks. “We were born on the same day in the same year at the same hospital. We are practically twins!” gushes Gladys, before she morphs into Victoria Wood and characters Wood has played. (It only sounds confusing here; onstage, it works just fine. The Gladys part of the script was written by Louise Roche. Jack Randle directed.)

Popping a blonde wig over her own short brown bob, Mo-as-Gladys-as-Victoria goes through a “typical Victoria Wood day” in an extended bit that has her describing being chased through a department store, with a detour into Wood’s hilariously bitchy and sing-songy ‘Welcome to the world of Sacherelle’ makeup demo sketch. Shapiro also does Wood’s gossipy ‘Madeline the hairdresser’ and she ends the show as Madge, who teaches low-impact aerobics in animal print tights in a gym class called Fatitude.

Songs from Wood’s repertoire (performed to recorded piano accompaniment) include Pretend to be Northern (full of zingy wordplay), It Would Never Have Worked (a sad-funny tune about the end of a romance) and Pam (about an awkward Sapphic encounter).

Shapiro has an engaging twinkle and beautifully crisp diction – the latter essential to interpreting Wood’s dialogue and lyrics, which are built on precise word choices full of plosives and alliteration.

Victoria Wood has often said she was inspired to do comedy by watching legendary monologist Joyce Grenfell. As Mo Shapiro does her tribute to Wood, she may remind you, however, of the great Canadian-born comedian Beatrice Lillie. (If you’re too young to know that name, look Lillie up on YouTube, where, by the way, you can also see hundreds of hours of Wood’s TV performances.) Without the blonde wig as Wood, Shapiro looks far more like the outrageously eccentric Lillie. Maybe there’s a future show in that for this funny lady, who’s so good at pretending to be other funny ladies.

Reviews by Elaine Liner

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The Blurb

If you love Victoria Wood, you'll love Victoria Wood + Me. Wood's hilarious songs and sketches, performed with her permission, tell the story of Gladys Winter, Victoria's number one fan. Their lives have a spooky synchronicity. ‘We were born on the same day, the same year, the same hospital so, we could almost be twins!’ Wood's genius for finding the comic in everyday life cheers Gladys’ otherwise ordinary life. Gladys has developed the uncanny knack of morphing into Wood's crazy characters at the slightest sign of trouble. Fun and laughter guaranteed. 'Sublime' (StageReviews.co.uk).