Skip to main content

Review of Hi-De-Hi at The Deco, Northampton

I was a fan of Hi-De-Hi in the eighties and in actual fact a fan of many of those very much of their time comedies. Hi-De-Hi was a bright and breezy and overly familiar show having ended up at many a holiday in the Maplins equivalent of Butlins, albeit not the fifties setting, but with very little changed in the decades anyway. However, we have moved on a bit since these eighties days, so does Croft and Perry's comedy still cut the mustard now?

The answer is yes and no, a lot of the humour is still fun and there are many a chuckle moments, the characters also are still bold and fun enough to provide some great entertainment. However, with these characters lie the first problem with an acting group doing a show like this. Anyone familiar with the show and its nine series run will have the characters so indelibly marked in their head and this offers no freedom for a performer to make that character their own, they are just setting out to copy someone. Yes, a challenge, and where it goes right, like with the exceptional recreation of Peggy by Victoria Miles and Gladys by Kate Billingham, there are no grounds for complaint. However, they are just recreating the performances of Sue Pollard and Ruth Madoc rather than being Peggy and Gladys of their own doing.

Elsewhere the eminently watchable Fraser Haines once again triumphs as Jeffrey Fairbrother, managing a little to get out of the shadow of Simon Cadell and play it his own way, but that is more how the character is written rather than how it was performed, his timing is as always exceptional. Likewise Bernie Wood and Martin Williams make a quite perfect combination of the hoity-toity Yvonne and Barry Stuart-Hargreaves.

There were two slightly disappointing performances from me though, Richard Jordan as Ted Bovis didn't bring much of the bold as brass nature of this vitally important role to the stage, and timing, so key to this kind of comedy, was out much of the time. It was such a shame, as Richard is an excellent talent and I have never been disappointed by him before, however for me, I personally think as Ted he was miscast, and just didn't feel confident in the role. Also below the required energy level of the character requirements was Ed Toone as Spike, such an incredibly enthusiastic character in the show, he was I am genuinely disappointed to say, upstaged by his costumes.

The stage show itself is quite frankly at times a little lame, and surprisingly so with such a wealth of material to plunder from. The storylines chose, Ted's wife seeking alimony and the choosing of the best lady yellow coat would hardly have fleshed out a thirty-minute episode, nevermind a full stage show. In fact, perhaps the best part of proceedings is when the story is abandoned altogether at the start of the second act, and the fabulous performers of White Cobra finally get to sink their teeth into some often actually entertaining material.

Staging is fine if a little repetitive in the musical numbers and there is the genuinely curious decision to make Jeffrey Fairbrother's office, where many of the scenes occur at the far side of the stage, partially hidden behind the musical performers (the quite brilliant Rod Iliffe and Brendan J Rayner) for a good part of the audience. Often scenes open in this office, so the audience awaits the great sweeping curtains to finally reach the location when the action awaits to begin. Very odd.

It is at the end of the day a curious choice for White Cobra, although running with something like this with a large cast and potentially high appeal, is perhaps obvious financially. However for me, it doesn't quite work and while it looks truly fabulous (amazing costumes sourced) and is well performed, on the vast stage of The Deco, it does even with a cast of fourteen, look overwhelmed at times by the venue. For all my issues with their last performance, Dizzy Boo, I frankly would happily have seen something like that again over something that you could simply watch on a box set or on some channel on Freeview at any time of your choosing. Hi-De-Hi is a little old hat now and White Cobra should not only be being more ambitious in their selections but also there is no question that their talent also deserves better.

Performance reviewed: Wednesday 1st November 2017 at The Deco, Northampton

Hi-De-Hi ran from Wednesday 1st to Saturday 4th November 2017 at The Deco, Northampton. For details of White Cobra visit: http://www.whitecobraproductions.co.uk/

For full details about The Deco visit their website at http://thedeco.co.uk/


Publicity photos: Tom Jordan

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…

Review of This Evil Thing at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This Evil Thing written and performed by Michael Mears isn't my first encounter with a play about conscientious objectors, however, it absolutely is the most detailed in its explanation of the subject. A clear and absolute labour of love from Michael Mears, and an obviously very personal thing for him, it leaves the audience pretty much in its grip for the whole of its 80 minutes.

Almost uniquely, our performer Michael Mears is in the theatre stalls upon entry, observing the arrival of the audience and indeed exchanging conversation at times. It's fascinating to see a performer not only there, but seemingly so relaxed pre-show and as he bounds on the stage at show start, this little nugget proves intriguing in itself.

Michael Mears is a captivating presence on stage, as previously experienced on the same stage in A Tale Of Two Cities and The Herbal Bed, therefore it comes as little surprise that he has a confident ability to make a one-man show work, and so well. With the use …

Review of Blood Brothers at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

A theatre in the east midlands, a thousand people stand applauding and cheering towards a stage where fourteen people stand. There on the stage, they bow, and bow, an inordinate number of times. They depart after a time and the lights come up over the capacity audience.

So did you hear the story of the Blood Brothers show, how people flocked and came to see them play?
Did you never hear about how we came to be, standing applauding the brightly lit stage this November day?
Come judge for yourselves how this night did come to be.

Blood Brothers was a significant show for me back in 2014, being the first musical that I saw live. Hiding up in the upper circle of the Derngate back then, not really sure what to expect, it was it turned out perhaps the perfect show to graduate me from play to musical that I could choose as Willy Russell's gritty and solid story is as confident as a straight play that perhaps any musical is. So strong is the story of the Johnstone's twins, that it liv…