Reviewed at The Palace

In contrast to a Hastings Comedy Fringe bill dominated by stand-up routines, Ruth E Cockburn’s ‘Postcards from Blackpool’ was a consummate piece of theatre.

Centred on the themes of romance, nostalgia and (the clue’s in the title) Blackpool, ‘Postcards…’ was originally commissioned by The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, and subsequently nominated for best new show at Leicester Comedy Festival.

Cockburn’s warm and engaging one-woman production wears a Lancashire heart of gold on its sleeve. Mixing comedy, recorded interviews and props the piece explores what Blackpool has meant to so many holidaymakers looking for love in its ballrooms and under its piers.

The strength of Cockburn’s witty performance lies in her skilful writing and carefully crafted narrative structure, interspersing jokes with quirky musical interludes, poetry and audience interactions. The pace is varied, the songs catchy and the real-life reminiscences surprisingly moving.

The daughter of a Blackpool B&B landlady, Cockburn affectionately celebrates her seaside home town while remaining clear-eyed about its rough edges and pockets of poverty. (Remind you of anywhere?)

Very funny, gently smutty, and deceptively clever she has been writing sketches and plays since graduating from Manchester University, where she studied acting, in 2005.

Deserving a larger (and younger) audience than it got in an early slot at the Palace, ‘Postcards from Blackpool’ was one of the standout performances of this year’s Hastings Fringe.

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