Assembly Rooms – Drawing Room
It’s been six years since we lost Victoria Wood, the gentle comedy genius whose songs and scripts captured the angst, awkwardness and fixations of everyday people and scarily familiar characters that leapt off the screen. Paulus was one of many Brits transfixed by the 1985 series, Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV, which sparked a lifelong love of Victoria’s work; Looking For Me Friend is his melodious love letter to the great lady with the “Bambi-like eyes”.
Like Paulus, I’ve long been a fan of her work (a Victoria Wood photo print from the National Portrait Gallery sits above my desk), so this was a no-brainer choice for my Edinburgh Fringe, but you could easily enjoy this show with little prior knowledge of her famous quotes or her delightfully daft songs. The set list includes ballads such as ‘Go With It’, inbetween up-tempo numbers like ‘At the Chippy’ and, of course ‘Let’s Do It’ (a.k.a. ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda’), changing the tone but always carrying the audience along.
Paulus sings with a rich timbre, his cabaret roots shining through, accompanied by pianist Michael Roulston. Their friendship started with Victoria Wood quotes, which felt “like a secret language… a modern Polari”. They slip into easy banter and Wood one-liners between songs, and it feels as though you’re joining two of your own friends, albeit with rubber gloves in their breast pocket as a nod to Acorn Antiques, another Wood classic.
Paulus even managed to keep the mood light when an audience member’s phone started ringing, and he ad-libbed about his time at drama school (a time which, he explains early in Looking For Me Friend, contained his most personal connection to Wood). He tells us how his appreciation of Wood wasn’t just about a funny woman – it was also about representation; from strong women to larger figures, and “gay characters that weren’t a punchline”. Though Victoria Wood was notoriously shy and self-deprecating, I’d like to think she’d be proud of this warm and wonderful show.
[Note that this review has been updated since publication. The original version stated that the show contained an original song not written by Victoria Wood. We are happy to correct this having been notified that all songs are in fact Victoria Wood penned.)
Written by: Paulus
Directed by: Sarah-Louise Young
Music composed by: Victoria Wood
Musical direction by: Michael Roulston
Looking For Me Friend: The Music of Victoria Wood plays at EdFringe 2022 until 28 August 2022. Further information and bookings here. The show then tours throughout 2022 and into 2023, dates and booking information here.