Monday, 9 April 2018

“Blackadder Goes Forth” by Encore Performing Arts
The Space, Arboretum Street, Nottingham.
Taking four of the six episodes of “Blackadder Goes Forth” BBCTV series, Encore add another success to their roster of theatrical smashes.
“Captain Cook”, “Corporal Punishment”, “Major Star” and “Goodbyeee” make up the programme.
It's 1917, inside the Allied trenches, Captain Edmund Blackadder is an intelligent, self-centered officer whose aim is to survive until the war is over. He is assisted by the eager but stupid Lt. George Colthurst and the moronic, grungy Private Baldrick. Blackadder's commander is the insane General Melchett, who is assisted by Blackadder's rival Captain Darling...and Edmund will stop at nothing to avoid going 'over the top'.
For anyone who remembers the comedy of Ben Elton, they will remember that his comedy style is very quick, satirical and very witty. His teaming with Richard Curtis makes this script one that you really need to listen to in order to get the maximum comedy effect, and I don't think the audience's ears were tuned in to this comedy part of the time as there were giggles sporadically spread over the theatre.
If I may make a comparison here. The comedy and the ability to listen and hear the comedy is almost like Shakespeare's words. You need to tune your ears in to the script and style of the bard to get the jokes, and I think this is the same with this style of comedy. This could be why some people got the wit and some didn't.
Anyway, this is not a reflection on the production, more of an observation of the audience.
I'm a fan of the "Blackadder" series, so i knew where the comedy was and even chuckled in advance of the funny lines to be delivered.
Blackadder is played by John Lowe, and John possibly had the hardest job because of the iconic character played in the series by Rowan Atkinson.From the first glance, John actually look like the character. It's going to be hard to inject the sarcasm and distinct pronunciation of particular words and
phrases into the script written for Atkinson, but John got very close to replicating this. After about five minutes you forget the actor and see the character, and that makes the enjoyment of John's acting skills more prominent.
The Honourable George Colthurst St Barleigh is played by Christopher Mundy, and playing the upper class, slightly naive character, really seemed natural to Chris.The character is also possibly the most emotionally layered character showing affection, loyalty and, possessed of a warm, gentle, cheerful, selflessly compassionate nature, which, in combination with his almost fearless stupidity, adds up to a truly tragic heroism with the coming of the final push at the end of the final piece. Chris really seemed to envelop himself in this character.
David Hurt plays Baldrick, and again, this iconic comedy character is one that any viewer will, like Blackadder himself, refer back to Tony Robinson and expect a Tony Robinson performance. David didn't do a Tony Robinson performance and I think that he would have been foolhardy to even try. What we had was David playing the character in the way that the script was written for the character and not for Robinson. Like John, after a few minutes you saw past the expectations of seeing Tony Robinson - or Rowan Atkinson in John's case - and we saw a lovely gentle comic role. David does comedy so well and this role was right up his alley.
General Melchett is played by Graham Buchanan. Graham just seems to morph into any role and character he is given to play. You soon forget Stephen Fry and Graham Buchanan becomes Melchett with all of the vocal and physical mannerisms.
Captain Kevin Darling is played by Chris Reed. I loved the utter embarrassment of the Captain's surname being used in the script, and the disgruntled reaction from the character. Chris has been away from the stage for a while but this is a welcome return in this role.
Private Bob is played by Emily Fox, and a nice little cameo role for Emily in the "Major Star" section of the production.
Other cameo roles for George Johnson, Bertie Black, Jack Readyhoof as Privates and Adam Guest in a double cameo.
Produced by Adam Guest and Sam Griffiths and Directed by Emily Cook, this is another classy production. i won't say it's a brave choice of play because there is nothing wrong with going out on a bit of a limb, especially when you have already built up a solid back catalogue of theatre productions as Encore. After all if you don't push yourself and your team and take a bit of a risk, what's the point? No resting on laurels for this team.
Loved the scenery (Terry Stevenson) and costumes (Nottingham Community Wardrobe/ Sherwood Rangers). The props were well researched and appropriate ( Katie Bird / Milly Shawcross), as was the sound design and effects.
The lighting and sound (Richard Heappey) were well utilised,
The audience reaction in Act One was slower than I would have expected but they - the audience - seemed to start listening and reacting to the script more in Act Two, which i am sure was felt by the cast because it seemed like the appreciation of the cast and the play were ramped up.
A clever comic piece of theatre with an emotive ending. Adam and Sam use the best local actors in all of their productions and this one is no exception.
As with all of the productions that Encore undertake, they choose an appropriate charity to collect for at every performance. This time around Encore are collecting for the Royal British Legion.
“Blackadder Goes Forth” is at The Space at The Nottingham Girl’s High School on Arboretum Street until Saturday 14 April 2018.

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