Amateur drama groups are becoming more and more proficient at adapting well known TV Sit-Coms: and Leighton Buzzard Drama Group are definitely in the top tier of groups able to do them well. Following on from their excellent adaptation of Fawlty Towers last year, this time they have taken on the ever popular Blackadder choosing the excellent Series II, the Elizabethan period with the three episodes, Bells, Head and Beer.
The basis of the set by Colin Dalamore and Mike Ward, suitably well painted and dressed in the Elizabethan period was a clever split between Blackadder’s house and the Throne room at the Palace, with a downstage right area serving as any room unconnected with the Palace or Blackadder’s house. With some clever flat reversal, the mid-section was quickly turned into other scenes including a dungeon complete with naked flame lighting. This arrangement allowed for quick scene changes, and boy did they need them. Some of the scenes in these episodes are extremely short, in one case I’m sure it was less than thirty seconds, the stage crew under the expert guidance of Stage Manager Jo Taylor worked extremely hard for their living. For an opening night it looked pretty slick and I’m sure as the week went on it would have become even slicker.
The same could be said of the lighting, with the quick fire scenes and several lighting changes during actual scenes, Dave Miles is to be congratulated on the sheer concentration needed to be on cue. There were a lot of them to get right.
Sound is one of those items you take for granted unless there is a problem, and since I didn’t think about it during the entire performance I can only say well done to Tom Davis, a good job well done.
Annie Rourke and her costume department particularly excelled themselves with the superb authentic array of outfits, with a particular mention for the queen’s dresses, which were absolutely perfect.
Now the actors: Taking on iconic roles such as Blackadder and Baldrick is a hard ask, the audience are basically turning up to see an impression of Atkinson and Robinson in the respective parts, and in the main Russell Bennett as Edmund Blackadder and Andrew Ferguson as Baldrick did a first rate job. Both have excellent comic timing and the delivery of punch lines in particular was pretty much spot on, with a good chemistry between them. Lorna Daggett as Queen Elizabeth was also spot on, she had the childish mannerisms and the voice pretty much pitch perfect. Suitably attired as she was she could have been Miranda Richardson’s understudy. Ben Clarke was my outstanding performance, he probably above everybody got the characterisation and voice nailed. And like all the main characters had a great comic delivery. Now I see from the programme that Lord Melchett was played by a total novice, Rob Taylor making his thespian debut! I didn’t note that until I read the programme afterwards and I can only say that nobody would have known, he handled the part with perfect ease, and his portrayal of the deadpan scheming Melchett fitted him into the show as if he had been doing it all his life. Good luck with your career on the boards sir, I suspect it will be long and fulfilling for you; I personally hope to see more of you in the future. Ruth Ashworth as Nursey brought a smile to your face every time she delivered a line. Wonderful stuff.
As for the excellent supporting cast, Lauren Waters whom I see joined the group in 2006 to play the principal boy is still typecast ten years later with the role of ‘Bob,’ played in splendid thigh slapping form. Ray Farren as her dad had the best delivered lines in the show trying to persuade his daughter to ‘go on the game!’ That got the audience going! Hilarious stuff.
Other good support from Kim Aguilar as Lady Farrow. Colin Delamore as Lord Whiteadder and Jan Delamore as the ‘slapper’ in ‘Beer. Damien Hinchcliffe as an excellent Dr Leech, Renee Dulieu as Mrs Ploppy and Paul Daggett as Lord Flashheart, who added splendidly to proceedings when he almost lost his wig. Hillarious stuff!
An extra special mention also for Adam Cavender whose singing minstrel was a brilliant addition to the show. Lovely voice and good comic timing, the first time I’ve ever been serenaded to switch off my phone.
If I had to be critical, at times the pace dropped a little, one or two jokes were lost in delivery and the scene changes had one or two lengthy gaps, but I was seeing the first night and from my own experience I know the show especially the scene changes would get slicker as the run progressed and as I said earlier there were a heck of a lot of them.
So well done to director, Colin Aldous, all in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment, your hospitality to me and my other half was also much appreciated. Always a pleasure to visit the Library Theatre.