(seen at the afternoon performance on 30th March 2019). Some actors have now
left the cast.
Appropriate to the blessed memory of the TV show's ethos, this is a total
knock-off version. It falls to bits after a couple of hours, through no fault of
the hapless cast.
Mixing solid gold old tunes with (mostly) weak new ones
makes the shine fade even quicker than usual. Odd exceptions glitter for a
moment - "The Girl" is almost acceptable, "Where have All The Cockneys Gone?" a
good try if the sound mixing desk (misfiring on all cylinders throughout) had
let even us in the front row hear it properly. For the rest, a slightly warped
David Bowie LP is a better listen, really.
Capping the musical theatre effort, director and choreographers Caroline Jay
Ranger and Denise Ranger raise a small smile at one point, but otherwise appears
to have overdosed on "cockney cabaret." Their programme credits suggest "The
Commitments" in London and "Faulty Towers Live" in Australia as the peak of
their experience. While their "Early Doors" was fine, sadly, it doesn't seem sufficient for the task this show
Luckily, set and costume designer Liz Ascroft gives us a pretty fun revolving
affair, with some smart signage. Did note the "remote controls" had fallen
through a time worm-hole, though. Tim Blazdell does well with anarchic graphics
distracting from a particularly vulgar and witless interlude in act two.
Of the performances: Tom Bennet is fine as Del Boy, capturing the spirit of a
wide-boy with heart if not quite the exuberance. Ryan Hutton's Rodney impression
isn't helped by the lack of gormless string-bean appearance, but as his voice
settles and his character gets a decent emotional journey, there's an appealing
growth in stage presence to match. Completing the trio, Paul Whitehouse as
Grandad is the standard-issue impression, and as writer he does give himself the
best monologue in the show.
For the ladies, Dianne Pilkington shines as Raquel, giving the already
mentioned "The Girl" the best number in the show full value. Pippa Duffy's
Cassandra is given little to do, but she takes the role with charm... though
cycle-shorts may be in order (the front row angle in one scene, well...).
In supporting roles, Jeff Nicholson is a beefy Boycie, Samantha Seager nicely
trashy as Marlene - and both deliver their big scene without betraying the
professional embarrassment it is probably causing them.
Nice work from Peter Baker as Trigger - timing his lines with ease; a
convincing Denzil in Adrian Irvine and not nearly enough of Chris Kiely and Andy
Mace as Mickey Pearce and Mike The Barman respectively. Melanie Marshall has a
good voice and neat characterisation as Mrs Obooko, and a touch of "Legally
Blonde" as the Wedding Fitter. Pete Gallagher and Adam Venus as the Driscoll
brothers also convince, while Osca Conlon-Morrey outwits nicely the script in a
variety of roles.
The text they all get is a sloppy mixture of television references and plots,
burning out around two scenes into the second half. Padding keeps the show
afloat until the final two sequences - and the monkey felt even they were not
worth waiting for. There are bright moments, but scattered and unworthy of the
great legacy they intend to preserve. "Cash-in" is sadly closer to it.
A more experienced new musical theatre team would surely have known what was wrong and fixed the
entire show out-of-town with extensive try-outs and revisions that would
re-mould the first act and re-write the second to the extent required. As it is,
this will sell out on the name alone, but it's a massive missed opportunity.