Tuesday 6 April 2010

Two Shows

Two shows in two days! Very different shows they were too, but both were great fun. First up was...

Darlington Civic
31 March

The show started with the familiar three-note glockenspiel introduction to an announcement Gladys Pugh (brilliantly played by a smouldering Rebecca Bainbridge) reminding people to switch off their mobile phones. Then it was straight into an energetic rendition of 'Holiday Rock', led by Ted Bovis (magnificently portrayed by Damian Williams) which gradually built up to bring the whole cast onto the stage, thus nicely setting the scene for what was to come.

Two of the actors were originals from the TV series, namely Barry Howard and Nikki Kelly. They played Barry Stuart-Hargreaves and Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves, the snobbish dancing instructors.

The main plot followed Peggy's attempts to become a Yellowcoat and the quest of Gladys to be named as top Yellowcoat, so she could stay with Jeffrey Fairbrother following his impending move abroad. The plot often took second place the funny set-pieces and songs. We were treated to renditions of several music-hall type favourites, including 'On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine' and 'The Old Bazaar in Cairo'.

There was only one problem for such an entertaining evening and that was the size of the audience; I would estimate just around 40 people were there. Full credit to the cast for not relaxing their efforts

For further details and tour dates, pop along to: http://www.hi-de-hi.net/

The audience was out in force the following night to celebrate the life of one Britain's best-loved comedians...

Jus' Like That!
Middlesbrough Theatre
1 April

This show was written by John Fisher, who also wrote the highly-regarded biography of Tommy Cooper (2006's 'Always Leave Them Laughing').

Clive Mantle makes a superb Tommy Cooper; tall and imposing, with a delicate balance between control and chaos. Essentially, it's a one-man show, with occasional support from Carla Mendonça. The first half is Cooper in full flow. Jokes, magic and mayhem flowed from him and the audience was well and truly hooked.

The second half begins with a more serious look at Tommy Cooper behind the scenes. His heavy drinking, his doubts and his ability to hide his feelings behind childish jokes are all demonstrated. This leads up to his last night alive, dying on the stage during his act. A final segment shows him happy enough in heaven, looking forward to meeting up with his great hero, Max Miller.

It's a fine show. By no means as intense as David Benson's one-man shows on the lives of Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd, this is more on a par with 'Morecambe', which I saw and reviewed last December.

Fans of Tommy Cooper will love it.

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