Binge watching in the trenches - The Leamington Observer

Binge watching in the trenches

Matthew Salisbury 29th Aug, 2023 Updated: 29th Aug, 2023   0

Blackadder, Talisman Theatre

CUNNING plans, pompous moustaches, trench catering and the idiocy of war on the frontline; Blackadder’s take on the first world war digs in at the Talisman in the hope and expectation of victory.

No fewer than four episodes are bolted together for this binge watch and the durability of the fun probably rests on how much you can stand. The jokes are still funny, if a little dated in their delivery, but this is a bumper helping probably only true fans would relish consuming.

From a box office perspective it’s a bit of a no-brainer staging a two-hour feast of the sitcom regularly voted Britain’s favourite. And tickets have predictably sold out. The tricky part is striking a balance between outright and wholesale impersonation, and giving cast and director a chance to stamp their personality on very familiar, almost untouchable, material.

Some classic sitcoms could allow for a little bit of reinvention, but Blackadder is so inextricably linked to Rowan Atkinson – and Tony Robinson – that any re-staging is condemned to live or die on how good the impersonation is.

Nicky Cheung faces an unenviable task as Blackadder. First class material of course but perhaps not enough charisma, weary resignation and spite to carry it off. It’s a commendable performance in a contest you could only ever lose.

Two performances elsewhere stand out and keep the unavoidably episodic nature of the evening moving along. Connor Bailey captures the hopeless optimism and unshakeable loyalty of Baldrick admirably, and John Nichols is hugely entertaining, and pitch perfect as the bluff, bonkers, buffoon Melchet.

David Draper’s direction keeps the emphasis on all the famous moments from the script without really taking any risks. The famous ending, when it comes, is pleasingly-handled.

The whole thing is impressively staged. John Ellam’s design combines excellent detail with necessary practicality. But as so often happens when the swift editing of the small screen is plonked on the theatre stage, scene changes become too frequent and overlong. If there is a clever, lateral-thinking way round this, it wasn’t to be found here.

This Blackadder should satisfy fans of the original series, or at least send them scurrying back to the box set to watch it all again.

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