by Jack Rosenthal
adapted for the stage by Simon Block.
4 Stars ****
Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London to 11 November 2017.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3,00pm.
Runs 2 hours One interval.
TICKETS: 08444 930 650.
Review: William Russell 20 September.
Destroyed by Sat Navs
One of televisions greatest playwrights Jack Rosenthal wrote this charming and very funny tribute to the London black cab and the legendary Knowledge all cabbies had to learn in 1979. Times have changed. Black cabs are still there, cabbies are still telling tales about who they had in the back, but there are other rivals on the scene – Uber and the mini cab while Sat Navs mean no driver needs have the Knowledge to take passengers to their destination.
Simon Block has crafted a charming play from the television script and Rosenthal’s widow, Maureen Lipman, who starred in the original TV film, directs it quite perfectly and has elicited spot on performances from her cast. We follow three men and one woman as they struggle to acquire the Knowledge riding round London on scooters or motor bikes learning the routes from all sorts of unlikely starting points to even less likely destinations. Presiding over them is the tyrannical Burgess, the examiner who will decide at the end of their course whether they merit the famous green badge. Steven Pacey may not quite manage the comic glories of the late Nigel Hawthorne, who created the role, but it is still an impressively funny performance. The cast rise to the demands of their parts with consummate ease – Fabian Frankel is particularly good as the hopeless Chris potentially one of life’s losers – and one does want most of the aspirants to succeed.
It is a pleasant, warm and diverting affair, there is a handsome and ingenuous set by Nicolai Hart-Hansen, and the result is a reminder of past glories at a time when it costs and arm and a leg to take a black cab, not the case in 1979. Fings ain’t what they used to be as far as black cabs are concerned.
Burgess: Steven Pacey.
Gordon: James Alexandrou.
Brenda: Celine Abrahams.
Val: Jenna Augen.
Ted: Ben Caplan.
Chris: Fabian Frankel.
Janet: Alice Felgate.
Miss Staveley: Louise Callagnan.
Arab Tourist/Cabbie: Michael Chance.
Attractive Woman/ Anthea: Gina Ruysen.
Director: Maureen Lipman.
Set Designer: Nicolai Hart-Hansen.
Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman.
Lighting Designer: Leigh Porter.
Associate Director: Sherrill Gow.