THEATRE REVIEW: Blackadder Goes Forth at Rotherham Civic

THEATRE REVIEW: Blackadder Goes Forth at Rotherham Civic

By Gareth Dennison | 17/11/2021

THEATRE REVIEW: Blackadder Goes Forth at Rotherham Civic

 

BALDRICK with a Rotherham accent just works …who would have thought it?

Actually, let’s not dwell on exactly why that might be and instead simply celebrate the Rep’s return to the Civic.

It feels like they have been melding together these half-series of classic British sitcoms since before Netflix made binge-watching an international pastime.

And Blackadder Goes Forth is another memorable take on our comic canon.

The set is only that Eden Camp smell short of being a 1917 equivalent of the Second World War museum’s atmosphere, with some striking attention to detail and props.

The stage has a dingy wartime trench half juxtaposed with the “safer” half, which serves as General Melchett’s office or the rehab hospital.
 
But boxing off the action does not make proceedings feel smaller and indeed, in the final of our three episodes, Goodbyeee, both sides are used simultaneously to emphasise the impending danger facing our boys in the trenches on the left as they prepare for the final push.

Shaun McHale does a sound job getting across the frustrations and lamentations of our title character, while Roger Hazelwood’s Baldrick — complete with his new South Yorkshire sound — draws some great laughs. And Richard Wilshaw’s Lt George sounds uncannily like Hugh Laurie, who played the character on TV.

Joe Brooke as Lord Flashheart and Danny Hastie as Melchett both provide great takes on the bombastic roles made famous by Rik Mayall and Stephen Fry respectively.  

Both are scene-stealers here, too, but Jack O’Boyle’s Captain Darling is perhaps the best of the bunch.

He has hilarious back-and-forths when being interrogated for alleged spying by Blackadder or when pleading with Melchett not to be sent to the frontline.

Being unable to cut between scenes quickly is a challenge the Rep is used to in adapting these shows, and the gaps tonight are filled with bursts of music from the era and clouds of smoke filling the trenches, avoiding any staccato feeling to the episodes.

Our first two episodes include a capture behind enemy lines in Private Plane and a mission to uncover a German spy in General Hospital.

Then comes Goodbyeee. This series finale provided one of the most memorable British telly moments, as Blackadder and co go over the top to their deaths.  

My first experience of the episode was being shown it during a history lesson at Maltby Comp in the 1990s, and it helped cement a love of the subject.

Its faithful recreation here is cleverly adapted for the stage, with a poignant use of video just before the final scene, which wraps up proceedings in a manner as respectful and smart as our new-look Civic.

Blackadder Goes Forth was always a sitcom with historical commentary among its laughs, pointing out the loss of life in between the innuendo and silly similes.

Rep deliver both strands impressively and return to the Civic with a boom (or several, if you like your Baldrick war poetry).

Blackadder Goes Forth is at the Civic until Friday.