WHAT makes a good sitcom?
For me, one of the most important things is for the TV viewers to take the characters to the hearts and warm to them.
Here we have an embarrassment of riches, from the bumbling Private Baldrick to the crown prince of the put down, Captain Edmund Blackadder, brought so engagingly to life on the small screen by Tony Robinson and Rowan Atkinson.
I never thought I’d feel the same deep seated warmth for these characters again. But in Charlie Tomlinson’s flawless and fabulous stage production I felt it - in spades.
As Blackadder, Steven Finney treats us a one man comedy masterclass and displays a sense of timing that is simply sublime. He can also make you laugh when he doesn’t actually say anything and while there are echoes of Atkinson, he’s more than succeeded in putting his individual stamp on this classic part.
Michael Gallagher is equally memorable as his sidekick and the butt of his jokes, Baldrick. There’s a natural rapport between the two of them. Rehearsals must have been a hoot.
In this particular outing, Blackadder and Baldrick are fighting for King and country in the First World War. They’re trying to keep their spirits up as they’re waiting for the next offensive, “the big push,” to begin. While Blackadder is unashamedly cynical about the War and what he sees as a senseless loss of life, the scriptwriters, Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, John Lloyd and Rowan Atkinson, never cross into irreverence and maintain the respectful tone needed when tackling a subject as difficult as this one.
If their script was a drink it would definitely be vintage champagne and not a word is wasted by a cast that includes a superb Hugh Everett performance as the unbelievably dense Lieutenant The Honourable George Colthurst St Barleigh.
This production made me laugh until my sides ached but when the ending came the tears were in my eyes. And I, as a lifelong fan of this TV classic, knew what was coming.
Until November 10. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - ***** Photo by Vish Sharma.