by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson adapted by Emma Rice.

Lyric Theatre Lyric Square King Street Hammersmith W6 0QL To 6 April 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 27 Mar 1.30pm.
Audio-described 5 Apr.
Captioned 4 Apr.
Post-show Discussion 28 Mar.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8741 6850.
Review: Carole Woddis 21 March.

Kneehigh totters.
Kneehigh is one of the country’s most popular companies, who have presented favourites including The Red Shoes, The Wooden Frock, The Wild Bride. Or maybe Brief Encounter. Or Rapunzel.

Mike Shepherd started it off in Cornwall, performing in barns and out of the way places. Over the years they’ve grown into part of the theatrical establishment. I’m just beginning to wonder, however, if it isn’t time for them to kick up their heels and go `off piste’ again.

As Shepherd made plain in an after-show Q&A, times have changed for them too in other less obvious ways. They have to wait for people to come to them with funds.

Maybe that’s how Steptoe and Son came into being. Adapted by Emma Rice from Ray Galton and Alan Simpson’s long running 1960s BBC TV series about the East End rag-and bone man, Albert and his man-child son, Harold, it’s a strange choice.

Co-produced in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse, this stage off-shoot feels more of a hodge-podge than Kneehigh’s normally more focused presentations.

Part of the problem lies in the time it takes to build up a sense of Albert and Harold’s lugubrious push-me-pull you relationship; it’s a slow burn. Beckettian echoes hover but the jokes feel flat, the pace leaden despite Rice’s attempts to inject slapstick and physical business, beautifully performed, it has to be said, by Shepherd and the super-sized, amazingly athletic Dean Nolan.

Very soon you realise that Rice is also charting a kind of cultural narrative of Britain through some iconic ‘60s and ‘70s soundtracks and indeed there is a very poignant moment when Albert and Harold prepare to receive the woman to whom Albert has suddenly proposed marriage.

Standing in front of a wardrobe to smarten each other up whilst Elvis’ `You were always on my mind’ gently plays in the background, it tells you everything you need to know about the affection these two really hold for each other amongst the general cruelty and insults.

Kirsty Woodward as a female component provides an otherwise missing element to this odd couple. Ultimately touching, it’s nonetheless disappointing.

Albert: Mike Shepherd.
Harold: Dean Nolan .
Woman: Kirsty Woodward.

Director: Emma Rice.
Designer/Costume: Neil Murray.
Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth.
Sound/Composer: Simon Baker.
Projections: Mic Pool.
Choreographer: Etta Murfitt.
Assistant directors Simon Harvey (Kneehigh & Tour), Samuel Wood (West Yorkshire Playhouse).

Steptoe and Son opened at The Asylum Cornwall on 21 July 21 2012 and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds Sept 14, 2012. First performance at the Lyric Hammersmith 19 March 2013.

2013-03-24 13:37:51

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