Review: Ricky Tomlinson’s Royle Variety Show - Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Ricky Tomlinson at the Grand Theatre for his Royle Variety Show.

Ricky Tomlinson at the Grand Theatre for his Royle Variety Show.

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Close your eyes and it was 1975... The Grand was packed to see a night of entertainment rarely seen at the theatre these days.

Ricky Tomlinson, best known for Brookside and Royle Family layabout Jim, is, at the age of 73, on a one-man mission to bring back variety.

He runs a cabaret club in his native Liverpool but wants to take proper variety - the type hugely popular in yesteryear, featuring jugglers, dancers, singers, comedians - back to the theatres.

This was a one-off in Blackpool, to test the water, to see if it’s worth taking elsewhere. On this evidence it is.

I have to hold my hands up. Part of me was groaning when I saw the bill - Tom O’Connor, Bobby Davro, PJ Proby - and I had secretly planned to nip out early.

But after a bit of a slow start, I ended up staying and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Davro - a regular on our TV screens 25 years ago but hardly heard of since - was great, a blur of gags and one-liners which had the audience stitches. O’Connor was more measured but no less laugh-out-loud funny, the very definition of old pro.

At one point he tripped over a monitor and fell on to it, bloodying his lip.

The audience gasped in concern, wondering if a man in his 70s was OK.

He got up unsteadily, obviously shaken, but almost instantly had everyone laughing again. It was wonderful to see - true class.

Tomlinson was the compere. I interviewed him in the run up to this show and he came across as a genuine nice bloke, who hadn’t forgotten his roots, and was a down-to-earth and selfless performer.

He came across exactly the same on stage, and threw in some excellent, if not original, anecdotes in his role as compere.

He also told about his long-running feud with fellow scouser Cilla Black and called her a very rude word, which was most entertaining.

Add in singers Proby and headliner Asa Murphy, the impressive and self-deprecating magician Paul Dabeck, the hard-not-to-like Stavros Flatley, and others, this was simply a good old-fashioned night that suggests variety- done the right way, with a bit of money spent on it - might just be on the verge of making an unlikely comeback.

Fingers crossed, because it was hugely enjoyable.

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