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Steptoe And Son – Arts Theatre, Cambridge

Adaptor: Emma Rice

Director: Emma Rice

Reviewer: Flip Miller


On the most part adaptations of classic comedy is wrong and shouldn’t be attempted. There is a reason that these pieces are classics. They have been written by some very talented writers and should not be tinkered with. On the most part, that is. However, Emma Rice’s adaptations of four of Galton and Simpson’s classic Steptoe and Son proves the exception to the rule.

Ok, so the first word of the play was Albert’s classic line “Harold” is a bit of a shock. Particularly, as it was in a broad Cornish burr. Once you realised that the show was not going to be facsimile of the original you soon got involved in the characters and stories that have been loved for generations.

The show was broken up into four of the Steptoe and Son sketches – The Offer, The Bird, The Holiday and Two’s Company. Each sketch was similar in length to a Steptoe and Son television episode. At no point were there any references to Oil Drum Lane so there is no need for the actors to try to put on a London accent and emulate the late Harry H Corbett or Wilfred Bramble.

By not determining the location for the action Mike Shepherd, playing Albert and Dean Nolan playing Harold can make the characters their own. Nolan, a man mountain, moved around the stage with ease. He clearly loved his rôle and threw himself into everything. He physically dominates Shepherd who is playing a much older man.

Shepherd portrayed his character, who is supposed to be 69, as much younger and a lot more sprightly. However, his breakdown in The Holiday was particularly poignant and made the grotesque Albert seem much more likeable. Shepherd and Nolan’s interaction did not quite come together as a believeable father / son partnership but it was evident that these were two actors that trust each other and had a good rapport. They also needed to work on their projection as at times it was difficult to hear them.

The other character seen on stage is Woman played by the versatile Kirsty Woodward. It could be said that despite being a minor part in the show she was pivotal in many of the sketches.

In the final sketch – Two’s Company the whole casts acting ability came into it’s own. It was like the who show had been building up to this sketch. It is very dramatic and even in such a short space of time managed to combine comedy and high drama and into one short piece. This was definitely the high point of the show. It really showed of all of the actors’ acting ability.

Throughout the show there are various pieces of music that are played to indicate the era that the action is taking place. Simon Baker, has designed the sound and score and sets the mood perfectly. There was even a nod to the original music at the very end although Baker had asserted his artistic right and put his own interpretation on it.

For die hard Steptoe and Son fans this show is a must. You just have to get used to Harold and Albert with Cornish accents. You will have a fantastic evening reliving the old sketches – now with a modern twist. New to Steptoe and Son? You don’t know what you’ve been missing.

Runs until Saturday 2nd March


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The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.