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The Naked Truth

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 29th Mar 2011 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

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The Naked Truth

UK National Tour

Reviewed at Middlesbrough Theatre

Dave Simpson’s smash-hit comedy play, The Naked Truth, which is set in a pole-dancing class, is now in its fifth fantastic national tour and its popularity shows no signs of waning. The show tells the stories of six very different women and boasts an all-star cast, led by singing sensation Maureen Nolan and former diva of the dales Claire King. There’s also ex-pop princess Michelle Heaton, Hollyoaks actress Julie Buckfield, the star of the West End show Hairspray, Leanne Jones, and the slightly lesser-known Alison Young.

Five women, who are all very different in terms of background, age, shape and personality, struggle to conquer pole-dancing under the expert instruction of the glamorous Gabby (Michelle Heaton). Each of them has their own individual motivations for being there and, as their stories begin to unfold and intertwine, they share laughter and tears in a play that demonstrates the solidarity of the sisterhood and celebrates strength through adversity.

Ex-Emmerdale and Bad Girls star Claire King plays Rita, a character you really wouldn’t want to mess with. But behind the bravado is a woman who is the victim of domestic abuse and is desperately protective of her two daughters. King is flawless in her carefully crafted characterisation of the tart-with-a-heart. Leanne Jones is the larger-than-life loudmouth who is looking for love in all the wrong places, Julie Buckfield is the self-obsessed snob Tricia, whose perfect life isn’t as rosy as it seems, Alison Young plays it strictly for laughs as the delightfully dippy Faith and Maureen Nolan completes the line-up as the demure and dignified Sarah.

As you might expect, there is much hilarity to be enjoyed as the novices acquaint themselves with the pole. Much of the comedy derives from physical clowning and Leanne Jones sends herself – and her size and shape – up with great sport and humility. The script relies heavily on ribaldry for the most part and the predominantly-female audience cackled along in delight.

However, when Sarah receives some devastating news, the others soon put aside any differences, pull together, and decide to turn their newly-acquired skill into a fund-raising charity event. Maureen Nolan is a performer who brings warmth and believability to any role (incidentally, she’s my all-time favourite, best-ever Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers) and she excels as the terminally ill housewife. It is to Miss Nolan’s credit that she had the courage and strength to accept such a part, given the impact that cancer has had on her family over the years.

Stephen Leatherland’s direction strikes the perfect balance between the moments of comedy and tragedy and there is never any jarring of the two. Despite such serious issues underpinning the production, the overriding themes are of triumphant resilience, the power of friendship and living life to the full. The Naked Truth is an empowering piece of theatre with a joie de vivre that is heart-warming and truly inspiring.

Steve Burbridge.

Runs at Middlesbrough until Wednesday 30th March 2011. For further tour details log on to www.theatre-productions.com

 

 

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