Blackadder Goes Forth (review)

THE balloon went up on five nights of comedy last week when Blackadder took his cunning plans into The Court Theatre, Tring.

Wednesday, 23rd May 2012, 9:45 am

Ben Elton and Richard Curtis’ legendary finale to the Blackadder television series was probably its most poignant and heartfelt and the Tring Festival Company’s adaptation didn’t disappoint.

The group’s resident writers, Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter, came up with an adaptation which honoured the original without being too much of a copycat.

We were, of course, in the thick of the action during the First World War and an incredibly impressive set (stand up and take a bow Bruce Sherring-Lucas) saw us wallowing in the trenches where we re-lived the last few days in the lives of Captain Edmund Blackadder, his sidekick, Private Baldrick, and the mentally challenged second-in-command Lieutenant George Colthurst St Barleigh.

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Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig wants one last push to win the war and Blackadder is the man who must eventually lead it. With the help, or otherwise, of Baldrick’s “cunning plans” he does everything he can to avoid the finale, from feigning mental illness to posing as a theatre producer.

Those familiar with the TV series were giggling throughout while some, who were too young to have seen it, or who had missed the opportunity to watch Rowen Atkinson at his funniest, were bemused rather than convulsive.

There were two stand-out performances - from newcomer Freddie Clarke as the gormless George (though, on occasions, mugging it too much in trying to be his TV alter ego, Hugh Laurie), and the splendid Colin Tovee as the revolting Baldrick. Tony Robinson would have been impressed.

Wayne Maclaughlin had the impossible job off stepping into Atkinson’s shoes and he found it hard going. His dead-pan presentation was frequently so ironic that the analogy-style of Blackadder’s dialogue fell flat and he would have got more laughs reading from a menu.

John Dilks as General Sir Anthony Melchett was another who stumbled over his lines but both men worked hard at recovering their positions.

Ben Holman made a suitably weaselly Captain Kevin Darling while the only woman in the cast, Emma Russon, as Melchett’s driver “Bob,” made the comedy look easy and had a great time pretending to be a Tommy.

Cameos from a surreal-looking Steve Berry as thigh-slapping gung-ho air ace Lord Flashheart, and Lee Marsh as Haig contributed to making this an enthusiastic and entertaining production.

ANNE COX