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Review: The Salon at the Epstein Theatre ***

Many venues now precede their show with tannoy requests to turn off your mobile phone, or a stern warning about no photography.

But at the Epstein Theatre this week the disembodied voice is instead alerting audiences to “strong language and scenes of a sexual nature”. And it’s a warning the faint (and pure) of heart should probably heed.

The Salon, making its Hanover Street debut after several successful runs along the road at St Helens Theatre Royal, is somewhat lewd, often unashamedly crude, and regularly laugh-out-loud rude.

Set in the eponymous pampering spot (technically titled Curl Up and Dye), Drew Quayle’s comedy concerns itself not with the customers – a handful of broad-brush caricatures - but with the dreams, aspirations, disappointments and affairs of the potty-mouthed rag tag of staff who serve them.

Leanne Campbell’s manager Carol has been abandoned by her husband, who is ensconced in a love nest with his new girlfriend across the road, a plot line that gives the Radio City presenter the chance to show her acting chops, especially in the second half.

Olivia Sloyan is pert therapist and singing wannabe Tia, while Sarah White rip-roars with relish through her role as the scissor-wielding, acid-tongued cougar Sheila. She certainly has many of the best and sharpest lines.

Philip Olivier, Leanne Campbell and Sarah White in The Salon. Photos by Dave Munn

One customer who does make an impact on the narrative is Philip Olivier’s dodgy ‘businessman’ Tony, a cocky lothario in Scally designer gear who swaggers in and out of the action, and if often at the heart of scenes which tip over from joyfully smutty to far too crude.

Subtlety is certainly not The Salon’s forte.

Meanwhile in the flat upstairs, it’s a right old County Road Cage aux Folles as ageing queen Neil (Peter Amory) deals badly with the defection of his fey young lover Paul (TOWIE’s Harry Derbidge) who has left him for another man.

The story unfolds in merrily spirited and occasionally haphazard fashion and on a set that’s a hazardous clutter of chairs and salon trolleys.

There are no pretentions here – The Salon isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but then neither does it set out to be. Or at least only in that it aims to be a crowd-pleasing night out for people who want to let their hair down and have a guilt-free laugh.

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