Doctor in the House
Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Monday 30th April 2012
After recent successful tours of 'Allo 'Allo, Dad's Army and Porridge having visited Chelmsford to much acclaim, it is with anticipation the audience awaited another TV-to-Stage adaptation of a "Classic British Comedy" on it's local opening.
The difference however is that the aforementioned true "classics" have stood the test of time. Period comedies, certainly, but with legendary characterisation and brilliant script writing, resulting in catchphrases still quoted by the modern young audiences they continue to reach. This level of timeless success cannot be claimed by the 1950s-based Doctor in the House, and with this adaptation we are reminded why we are not graced by constant re-runs of the original series on "Gold".
Set in the run-down flat of a group of trainee Doctors (the single-set was implausable but excellently designed), dated, sexist jokes that do not shock or amuse a modern audience, are the basis of the majority of the comedy.
Joe Pasquale as Tony Grimsdyke leads the cast, retaining Joe Pasquale shamelessly in a very panto-esque performance. He rattles through his lines so quickly it's a struggle for even the most willing audience member to buy into the feeble plotlines, but his natural comic ability saves the production as, regardless of what else is happening on stage, he can win the audience back on side with a single look.
The supporting cast are hard-working, I especially liked Emma Barton as Vera, but there is little they can do. The only moments of release we do see are the addition of some rehearsed-ad-libs and semi-scripted audience banter shoe-horned in to introduce some laughter. What a British acting hero like Robert Powell is doing in this cast is a mystery.
Fawlty Towers is booked in to the Civic in September. As a show that much more comfortably suits the "classic" label, and without trying to be sold on the basis of an ill-fitting star studded cast, lets hope it returns these popular adaptations back to form.