Review: Steptoe and Son

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West Yorkshire Playhouse

IF you loved the vintage comedy series or crave idiosyncratic stage productions, then the chances are you will love this, the latest offering from Kneehigh Theatre Company.

This production bears all their hallmarks in terms of style and presentation and will no doubt be adored by fans of their distinctive treatment. At the same time the guts of the original Steptoe and Son scripts remain intact, reassuring stalwarts. But if your priority is discovering an age-old vestige of hilarity for the first time, this will probably prove a little disappointing. The trouble is that Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s creation always appealed to a certain audience. It is warm bath comedy with strong echoes of the era from whence it came.

Kneehigh’s artistic director Emma Rice hasn’t negated any of the visual or written references to the time period either which, on some level, is admirable. But the fact remains, unless you find the antics of father and son, Harold and Albert Steptoe gut-busting then you’re onto a loser from the start.

There is much tragedy among the comedy, and this is heightened wonderfully by Kneehigh. Dean Nolan is also first class as Harold, though less satisfying is Mike Shepherd as his self-centred father, Albert.

Unfortunately the woman who hovers around the edges of the action (a character created entirely by Rice) is an annoying distraction. And there are several annoying distractions, like the sporadic dance routines and sections of music. And then there’s the decision to change the accents from London to West Country. This was not a good decision. These elements are put in place, presumably, to ensure Kneehigh leave their seal on the show, but they add little to an experience which was never going to enthrall anyone other than devotees of the TV’s famous rag and bone duo.

To October 13.