The play Talent was written for the Crucible by Victoria when she was an up-and-coming 25-year-old writer and performer and was first performed in the Crucible Studio in 1978.
It marked her stage writing debut and she based it on a world that was familiar to her – a local variety show for those hopefuls who wanted to make it on to the Britain’s Got Talent-style shows of the 1970s, such as Opportunity Knocks and New Faces, which gave Victoria her first taste of success.
Lucie Shorthouse, who plays the lead role, said: “The show is set in 1978. Victoria Wood wrote it. We all know she was a genius and we’ve been exploring and investigating the text even more. The fact that she is bringing such light and warmth and width to the stage is incredible.
“I play Julie, who is in the contest as a singer, and dreams of stardom and getting out of town and her dispiriting life. Most dreams are never plain sailing. There’s a journey to her dreams with twists and turns.”
Lucie said she finds the character a lot of fun to play: “She is delightfully unaware and quite naive in this world she is in. She is not used to singing in a club, she is used to being a mum at home and a secretary.”
She said that director Paul Foster has given the cast a lot of space to play around with their characters.
“We are an ensemble of six. There’s my character and her friend Maureen, who was originally played by Victoria Wood. When we start the play I am coming into a backstage room to get ready. People come in and out.
“There’s a compere and a magic act and an organist, all beautifully eccentric and very familiar. The eccentricity comes from the most mundane places. The cast are all incredible – it feels like a masterclass every day, they’re all so good at comedy.”
Lucie says that the team had to get used to working in a socially-distanced way and a lot of precautions are in place to ensure everyone stays safe.
The pandemic had another major effect on the show, said Lucie: “It was meant to run last May. Lots of shows had to throw in the towel and say it can’t happen.”
Lucie was very happy to return. “I had worked there before two to three years ago. It’s such a joy to come back and see the same faces. I realised that that level of warmth and professionalism is a genuine warmth. Not every theatre will have that. It something so special about coming back to Sheffield Theatres and so unique.”
She created the role of Pritti Pasha, the studious but supportive best friend of flamboyant young drag wannabe Jamie, at the Crucible before transferring with the West End production. The role won her a What’s On Stage award for best supporting actress in a musical in 2018, plus a host of award nominations.
“When we first came we did 19 shows,” said Lucie. “We had such faith in the story but no idea as to its reception or if we were going to get audiences. You never know with these things.
“The success of the show was really down to the Sheffield public and word of mouth and it gathered momentum.”
Lucie spent 15 months in the West End show. She can’t wait to see the film. “It’s going to put Sheffield on the map,” Lucie predicted.
“We knew when we had Sheffield audiences in the West End,” added Lucie. “There were certain jokes or references only a Sheffield audience would get. There’s something nice about knowing that. Sheffield own it, it’s their story.”
Lucie can’t wait for audiences to see Talent: “Sheffield is really in for a treat. It’s a feelgood show, warm and witty. It’s set in the seventies and it’s a trip to pub land, club singers and bingo.
“After lockdown, it’s just the tonic that people might need. It’s a lot of fun but it does have some twists and surprises.”
Talent is at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield from June 30 to July 24. Book at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk