Blackadder Goes Forth, Churchill Theatre, Review

Rating
4
Show details
Company
Edinburgh People’s Theatre
Production
Richard Curtis & Ben Elton (writers), Kirsty Boyle (director), Robert Fuller and Mandy Black (lighting design), Peter Horsfall (sound), Sally North (production manager), Carol Caldwell and Lynn Cameron (wardrobe)
Performers
Mike Brownsell (Blackadder), Iain Menzies (Baldrick), Simon Eilbeck (George), Graham Bell (Melchett), Pat Hymers (Darling), Gordon Braidwood (Haig), Nicky McLeod (Bob), Lynn Cameron, Kevin Edie, Stephanie Hammond, Mike Keenan, Ronnie Miller, Stewart Robertson (soldiers)
Running time
110mins

One of TVs most popular series from the ‘80s comes to Edinburgh with the highly suitable pun in the title ofBlackadder Goes Forth.

The BAFTA award winning comedy series tells the history across a few centuries of Edmund Blackadder (Mike Brownsell), a devious character who is always close to the highest authority but never quite wielding much power apart from over his lowly sidekick with a penchant for turnips, Baldrick (Iain Menzies). Blackadder Goes Forth is the fourth part of the series and takes place during the First World War. In the dugout, Captain Blackadder’s time is spent hatching callous plans to get himself home from the front. These involve his easy outwitting of both the trusty Private Baldrick and the dim witted but aristocratic Lieutenant the Honourable George Colthurst St Barleigh (Simon Eilbeck). His conniving always come to naught when confronted with the mad as a box of frogs General Melchett convincingly played by Graham Bell and his toady (pun intended!) Captain Darling (Pat Hymers) from HQ though the wily Edmund always manages to use his mercurial wit to save himself.

From the start the EPT cast swan about in uniform at front of house already in character even before they launch in to the three episodes chosen from the series for this production - Captain Cook; Major Star and Goodbyeee. With music from the time like The Sunshine of your Smile and Daisy Daisy; suitable instructions re mobiles and photos being commanded military style over the tannoy, and a detailed set that comprises HQ, dugout, trench and eventually No Man’s Land divided by effective lighting from Robert Fuller and Mandy Black, we are back in 1917.

This cast has taken on the mantles of these well- known characters as though born to them with Mike Brownsell in the eponymous role not only resembling Rowan Atkinson but getting his tongue smoothly round the linguistic fireworks from the original script by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton from start to finish. George and Baldrick’s mouth gaping naïveté are brilliantly realised by Iain Menzies and Simon Eilbeck, who also manages to pass himself off as a heart breaker of a leading lady in the concert party when General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett thinks he’s met the woman of his dreams. Well maybe he had, as when Bob, played by the very feminine Nicky McLeod, takes over her the role, he regards her as being a cariacature!

This colourfully written highly comic farce full of lampooning of the folly of war and the upper classes who ran it has been fantastically well re-created by EPT. The final scene that memorably created so much poignancy when it was first shown in 1989 manages to be equally moving at Churchill Theatre as the silhouetted soldiers stand and, of course, fall at the final push. The trip to Morningside is well worth it to see this fine production of a piece of classic British comedy.

The three episodes of the cult show that appear in this EPT production were given permission by the series’ creator Richard Curtis in return for a donation to Comic Relief and the production follows discussion between John Lloyd original TV series producer and EPT’s director, Kirsty Boyle.

6th-8th April at 7.30pm, 9th April at 2.30pm