Tuesday, 29 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Sitcom Stories #2 - The Peer Hat, Manchester.

“Sitcom Stories Two” is a collection of short plays that take classic sitcoms from history, such as Porridge, Dad’s Army and George And Mildred, but tell a new story using those characters that we all know and love. This production of “Sitcom Stories” was presented at the quirky venue that is The Peer Hat in the Northern Quarter in Manchester.

First to the stage was “Blood’s Thicker Than Porridge” as we were reacquainted with the characters from the original sitcom Porridge. Norman Stanley Fletcher (Howard Whittock) and Lenny Godber (Sean Mason) took to the stage and Godber broke some news to Fletcher that there had been another murder at Slade prison – the forth in the last month. Fletch and Godber talked of attempting to work out the identity of the murderer. The story was interesting, with a twist at the end but what stood out for me from this short play was just how good Whittock was as Fletcher. He captured the tone of voice and in particular the mannerisms just perfectly. It makes me think that there could easily be a Porridge full length play with perhaps new material – Whittock would be a great choice for the lead role.

Next in line was “Five Years” in which Alan Bennett (Pete Gibson) talks of his conversation with his friend Thora about the end of world being due in five years’ time. David Bowie and his album Ziggy Stardust had a very similar prediction, giving this short play the most bizarre link between Bennett and Bowie. Pete Gibson as Alan Bennett was simply brilliant, I’ve seen many impersonations of Bennett but this is by far the best I have seen. There is a tendency to over exaggerate his mannerisms and quirks but Gibson performed this superbly. The story didn’t quite hit the spot for me but I would love to see more of Gibson as Bennett.

Third in line should have been “Rag And Brains” but in a change to the schedule we actually got “The Generation Game” which was scheduled to be later in the evening. “Rag And Brains” was no longer in the schedule and was replaced later by “The King Of Crumpsall”. However, “The Generation Game” was a bizarre situation where Mildred (Carly Tarrett), and wife of George from the sitcom of the same name, being paired up on stage with Larry Grayson (Matt Melbourne). The world outside of the television studio had ended but Mildred and Larry were carrying on with the gameshow regardless. This was a very dark story that started with some typical gameshow banter but ended with two very frightened characters as the realisation of their situation unfolded – entertaining but quite disturbing which I guess is what the intention was.

Next on the agenda was “The King Of Crumpsall” as we were treated to an appearance from Gunner Lofty Sugden (Pete Gibson) from the classic sitcom It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Lofty was so called because of his lack of height, and explained during the performance that back in the 1970s it was common place for a fat person to be called Slim, and short people to be called Lofty. The reference to Crumpsall was the fact that the original actor who played Sugden was Don Estelle who was from Crumpsall in Manchester. Gibson was again superb in the role, capturing all of the right parts of Sugden’s character.

The final story to be told on this evening was “Mainwaring In The High Castle” which was a throwback to the brilliant Dad’s Army. The play took us to an alternative dimension where the Nazi’s had won the war and occupied Britain. Captain Mainwaring (Steve Cain) had been captured and was in a cell, Wilson (Ian Wilkie) had defected to join up with the new Nazi rule and Corporal Jones (Pete Gibson) had given himself up in order to plot the escape of Mainwaring. Jones had placed some plastic explosives about his person and was waiting for nature to take its course. This led to some hilarious slapstick comedy that ended the night on a high – best show of the evening.

All in all this was a fun set of short plays – the overall running time was just over an hour for the collection and as a result the night ran along at quite a pace. I would like to see a couple of them played out with longer versions but overall this was a very entertaining set of plays.

Reviewer - John Fish
on - 27/10/19

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