Thursday, 8 November 2018

REVIEW: Blackadder Goes Forth - The Garrick Playhouse, Altrincham

In line with the centenary of the end of WWI the Garrick has produced this cleverly written amateur version of Blackadder Goes Forth based on the original BBC series starring Rowan Atkinson and written by Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton and John Lloyd, which more than translates to the stage.

The play is performed in four acts which are episodes of the classic series and successfully recreate the atmosphere, style and acting of the original, iconic series. All episodes are set in WWI where Edmund Blackadder is an irreverent Captain in the British army based at the front line. The amazing set – in the dugouts and quarters is stunning and worthy of a West End show. This society never ceases to amaze in the quality of production it can achieve in its stunning theatre space. 

Blackadder fails magnificently, as usual, in following orders whilst his incompetent foils, Baldrick and George, set him up for failure and court martial and death by firing squad. In Act I, Blackadder attempts to thwart the order to proceed and attack by ignoring Darling’s order via telephone, telegram and even carrier pigeon – by shooting the pigeon and unceremoniously eating it thus disposing of the evidence! This was the first of four extremely entertaining and comedic scenes episodically moving through the war and Blackadder’s constant and often vain attempts to avoid actual fighting. Hilarious acting throughout the entire evening by all the cast but especially by Blackadder played by Steven Finney who gave us a masterclass of Rowan Atkinson idiosyncrasies but somehow also managed to make it his own by not pulling Mr Bean faces. We absolutely loved his performance. It was subtle and controlled and his voice was sublime in creating a characterisation of style and comic excellence. Finney has played this role previously for the Garrick in 2015 and won a NODA Award for best actor and it is easy to see why.

He was more than ably supported by his fellow soldiers and comrades who all turned out star performances. The hilarious David Beddy as General Sir Anthony (lots of extra names), gave us a pompous, pumped up General who in the end was too much of a coward to go over the line and led from the back. His scene with Darling where he announced his love of Georgina (the drag act from the musical hall) was hysterical. That moustache needs a mention all to itself. Captain Darling played simperingly and wimpishly affected by Steve Searcy came into his own from his hateful underplaying and loathing of Captain Blackadder but in the end they all met the same demise. Hugh Everett’s Lt. George, friend of Blackadder but not the brightest bulb in the box had amazing presence and you could almost see the vacant stupidity of the character through his acting. Baldrick was played wickedly inept by the unassuming and completely blundering Michael Gallagher and was in safe hands with his acting.

All other ensemble parts were excellently acted. The nurse cum spy Emma Turner could have been a little sexier to seduce Blackadder but the main idea was there. The firing squad who cannot wait to ‘Ready, aim, fire’ on Blackadder had excellent timing and also served as stage hands to move on the action, scenery and props.

The evening and the final episode was more sombre as despite his valiant and very best efforts to avoid being killed, Blackadder and his comrades are faced with climbing the wall and going over the barricade to certain death. The last couple of minutes were stunningly good theatre. You could hear a pin drop as the pyrotechnics and bangs of the gunfire silence to a sea of poppies falling from above the stage and landing like a carpet as a poignant reminder of the fallen in the (not so) Great Wars.

Thank you to the Garrick for producing such excellent, spell-binding and incredibly funny theatre. It was highly memorable.

Reviewer - Kathryn Gorton
on - 7/11/18

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