Steptoe and Son

Tue 16th – Sat 20th October 2012

reviews

John Spyrou

at 00:55 on 17th Oct 2012

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It was pleasing to see that the director stayed close to the origin of Steptoe and Son, by using effects rooted in television sitcom, utilising pauses and climaxes of recurrent music in order to add pathos and gravity to many scenes. At first, I was expecting an enchanting play, due to the Tim Burton-esque and gothic stage-design, but this idea was quickly ousted by the presence of a slender girl dressed in a brightly-coloured 60s maxi-dress appearing on stage as the first character.

The music throughout is very well considered, and the director adopted a very charming way of representing the music being played by displaying the respective record covers on a vintage turntable on stage-left, with a subtle light highlighting this detail. The costumes of the three actors are appropriate and varied, especially with Albert’s vest showing nice detail of its thread-bare heritage.

At first I found it strange that there were short dance, singing and acrobatic duets in the middle of a scene, however these quirky mini-performances quickly merge well into the theme of the play as a whole. The tone of the play is rather difficult to pick up therefore, since there is a strong underlying malignant relationship between the father and son, however this is combined with slapstick comedy, which took weight away somewhat from several scenes, which can only be described as pantomimic. That said, these scenes actually do work and, Nolan, playing Harold, is a very amusing character who can only be described as David Brent embodied as Elvis in the latter years of his life.

Women are given a strong ephemeral attention as a main theme, and this concept is neatly portrayed by Kirsty Woodward who must play more than six different roles throughout. Woodward is used to introduce each small section of the play, which are announced in surreal ways, for example by using an over-sized hand fan, or a shadow-puppet screen tattooed with nouveau-gothic script, where she further highlights the strange relationship of the two men. In every scene, women are kept as a dream, and never enter into reality, from Albert’s former wife, to Harold’s love interest, to the doctor, who in fact is provided with a trumpet solo in order to keep this essence of evanescence.

I would recommend to see this production (at a cost of £9.50 - student price) it was an enjoyable play with an unusual and interesting stage management. The acting was good and well complemented by lively music.

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