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Brothers Del and Rodney live with Grandad in Nelson Mandela House, Peckham. Through ducking and diving, one day they may become millionaires.
The classic BBC TV sitcom comes to the stage.
Les Denis plays Grandad from 3rd October 2022. Casting details are given for information only, and theatremonkey.com cannot be responsible for any issues arising from this.
(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 requires.
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.
SEAT REVIEW: ROYAL CIRCLE ROW A Seats 21 and 22.
As the first two seats off the aisle in the side block stage right, these seats had a great view of the whole stage whilst being considerable less expensive than the centre block only 4ft to our right!
The view from the front row is obviously unobscured, the seats themselves were very comfy with more than adequate legroom for us at 5’9” (although I would say those over 6’ may find it less so) and the front wall does not get in the way one bit.
One interesting note - never in any other theatre have I had to walk so far to get to the Gents ! So many narrow corridors and stairs and at the end - The smallest toilets in the world!
Ah, the charm of these beautiful old West End Theatres - I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As someone who started the 1980’s in school and ended it married with 2 children, this is my era and Only Fools and Horses was (and continuing into the 90’s) essential televisual viewing. I was therefore rather apprehensive about seeing this show, fearing the worst that some less than favourable reviews may indeed be correct and my golden memories of this classic sitcom were to be ruined. I needn’t have worried - We loved it.
No, this musical will never be compared with anything written by Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, Boubil and Schoenberg etc but not for one second does it expects to be.
But for anyone who remembers the TV show then those memories will come flooding back. Think iconic moments from the classic episodes fused together with songs to create a story - You get the idea. The van, the bar, the chandelier, the characters - it’s all here.
Wonderful performances from all the cast (I have to single out Oscar Conlon-Morrey who effortlessly performed at least 10 different characters with much hilarity), catchy musical numbers (No West Side Story perhaps but South London Knees up indeed), an inventive revolving set and just over 2 hours (including interval) of easy going entertainment and memories of a simpler time.
I can see how this might not be everyone’s cup of tea and it may indeed be the case that someone is making money from original writer John Sullivan’s legacy but this show has a huge heart and we loved it - Lovely Jubbly!
A View From The Stalls.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours 30 minutes approximately.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
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