CISSIE & ADA: An Hysterical Rectomy
by Graham Warrener.
Broadway Theatre Broadway Barking 1G11 7LS To 6 April 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 1 & 7 April 3pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 507 5610.
Review: William Russell 28 March.
Far from barking up the wrong tree.
Based on the sketches the comedian Les Dawson used to perform with Roy Barraclough (best known otherwise as landlord of Coronation Street’s Rover’s Return) this is very much a work in progress. More rewriting is needed, but there is the basis for a thoroughly satisfying look at the man.
Dawson and Barraclough’s television act as two Northern ladies, Ada (Dawson) vulgar and outspoken, Cissie (Barraclough) genteel in the extreme, belongs to the British music hall tradition of which Norman (‘Over the Garden Wall’) Evans was perhaps the best-known practitioner and Mrs Brown the latest manifestation.
The problem with the play is that while the Cissie & Ada sketches still work beautifully, they do not necessarily illuminate much about Dawson, and what we learn about the man is not very interesting – especially in the first half when he comes across as rather unpleasant.
The play deals with his time at the BBC and the sexist stuff – the wardrobe assistant complains of being propositioned by studio executives – seems tagged on in response to today’s headlines rather than something integral to the time. Steve Nallon is perfect as Cissie and Barraclough, but Eric Potts, a very good Dawson, is oddly a less successful Ada. He has the same problem David Walliams had with Frankie Howerd. He was fine as the man, but less so as the comic. The point is we “know” Ada, we don’t know Les so the actor playing the latter role can create; with the former he has to recall the reality which is far harder to do.
Also, by focusing on the two ladies, the portrait of Dawson, who was something of a Renaissance man, talented pianist, novelist, extremely well read, much more than Ada, lacks dimension. Somehow those aspects need to be brought in to fill out the portrait.
There is good support from Natasha Magigi as the wardrobe lady and Steven Arnold as Terry Ravenscroft who wrote Dawson’s material which the great man then “improved”.
Cissie/Roy: Stephen Nallon.
Ada/Les: Eric Potts.
Terry: Steven Arnold.
Sandra: Natasha Magigi.
Director: John-Jackson Almond.
Designer: Chris Mellor.
Lighting: Samuel Welch.
Sound: Luke Wylie.
Live stream operator: Valmar Kass.