Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Written by Victoria Wood, this was bound to be funny,and it's more than that because in the hands of these actors, "Antiques" is one of the funniest plays I've seen this year so far. Acorn Antiques is run by Miss Babs and Miss Berta, aided by their friends and cleaner: Mrs Overall and Mr Clifford. Soon, they discover a third sister, Bonnie who is initially scheming and devious,even sacking Mrs Overall. The plot unfolds and the sisters are faced with financial problems and eventually family secrets are revealed. The show ends with the return of Mrs Overall, a windfall, and the marriage of Miss Bertha and Mr Clifford. Well that's the main story, but there;s so much more to this wonderful comedy musical.
There's not a single member of the cast who isn't essential to the comedy cogs of this well oiled mirth machine, so let's take a look....
Miss Babs, played by Carrie-Anne Corner is so good you forget Celia Imrie. Babs is the sexually frustrated man-eater with a lovely line of double-entendre. Tie that in with a great singing voice, shown off well in "Have You Met Miss Babs" and you have one third of the sisters.
Miss Berta is portrayed by Carolyn Smith, another killer of a comedy role, with just a touch of sadness as she recalls about the time that she nearly married Mr Clifford, but due to a freak accident, this didn't happen. Thanks to another freak accident with a tea tray though, a happy ending ensued.
Miss Bonnie is the baddie of the piece, well one of them, and at times gets a panto baddie reception with "boos" and "hisses" coming from the audience.Alex Taverner revels in this role and I loved the comedy that Miss Bonnie brings to table by way of the very talented Alex T. A wonderful trio of very funny characters and actors.
Mina Machin plays Mrs Overall, and if ever Julie Walters hangs up her overall for this part then Mina can step into this role with the greatest of ease. Not only does Mina look like Julie Walters in the role, but she sounds like her and she has all of the Mrs O's characteristics down to a tee. the character is comedy royalty and there's a scene where Mrs O goes up the stairs in a stairlift and waves to the audience who take great pleasure waving back. Oh but i was longing for Mina to do a Royal Wave in the way that the Queen does. Just an observation, mind!
As I said, all of the characters were crucial to the musical so let's have a look at some of the others....
Mr Clifford, who is the Duncan Preston role is played by Jason Parker and his whole mannerisms remind me so much of Duncan's portrayal.
Derek (Chris Collington) and Mr Watkins (Martin Holton) play the only two men in the village who iron their cardigans!! Martin stepped into the breach just hours before curtain up after Keith Butcher took ill earlier. I hear that Keith is on the road to recovery which is good news.
There's a lovely comedy section which involves the two young shop helpers Hugh and Mimi, which shows Victoria's knowledge of classic comedy sketches as she seems to have been inspired by a sketch from Abbot and Costello with a clever word play scene around the names. Hugh and Mimi are transformed from two chavs to respectable antique lovers. Zach Foster and Emily Corner give brilliant character performances in these roles.
Tony is the other baddie. As the loan shark who tries to con the sisters out of the shop, Adam Richmond brings a slimy, almost devilish feel to the character, who changes from the hard hearted con man, thanks to the actions of Mrs O and her macaroons!!
The rest of the cast play various other roles as shop owners, the lollipop lady, and the postman who was also on the radar for Miss Babs, well he is male! Every one of them giving faultless performances.
As per the TV version of "Antiques" there are shaky walls, missed cues and even the bits which weren't supposed to happen added to the comedy and got laughs where they weren't scripted in...cue door handle!
The orchestra, under the musical direction of Dave Dallard was, as usual, crystal clear, and not too loud that you couldn't hear the actors. A nice mix, thanks to Ben Tennett at the sound controls.
Beautifully and lovingly directed by Rob Corner, who obviously has an eye and ear for getting the pace of the comedy spot on. With this show playing up to the fact that missed cues are part of the comedy, playing it like this is harder than playing it to the cue as you want to and going against the comedy grain isn't easy. It's like Les Dawson playing the piano; he was a talented pianist but playing for comedy was harder.. you get what I mean don't you?
There are some wonderfully choreographed pieces here, especially the end piece which is straight out of Hollywood, via Manchesterford,
and a very clever tap routine, all choreographed by Laurie Trott.
You know, I can't find anything in this show to constructively criticise because these bunch of amateur actors gave an amazingly good performance to a professional level, which is what I had expected anyway. I've not smiled or laughed so much since "Fawlty Towers" on stage a few weeks ago, which shows that local theatre groups are just so talented where comedy is concerned. Don't always rely on professional shows for the big laughs because the talent is here at a local level. Now!
"Acorn Antiques" is on at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 19 March 2016.