Charles Essex reviews Steptoe and Son at the Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
At first glance, a production of three episodes of a TV series which finished in 1974 was a brave move, even though at its peak it attracted millions of viewers per episode. No-one under the age of 50 years old will remember the original. However, The Priory’s courage was rewarded! This was an excellent depiction of the two main characters, father and son, prisoners of circumstances. These were effectively two-handers and Tim Guest (Harold) and Paul Muldoon (Albert) portrayed the stances, walk, gestures and accents of the main protagonists to a tee.
Although Steptoe and Son is a product of its time, apart from a few cringe-making words, the scripts were much cleverer and funnier than this reviewer remembers. Of the three episodes Men of Letters was a crafty demonstration of Harold’s intelligence, aspirations and pretentiousness contrasting with Albert’s crudeness as they wrote for the church’s parish magazine. Particularly clever was the finale of Harold hurling insults at Albert by using the answers to Albert’s rude crossword. In Three Feathers, Harold’s delight on thinking he had finally made a quick buck were quickly disabused by Albert. And in A Perfect Christmas Harold seemed to have been thwarted when Albert went on a holiday, only for Harold to realise his hopes for a 'dirty weekend’ with his girlfriend!
Tim and Paul sparked off each other with superb timing and no lapses. The authentic single set was effective as the cauldron in which this duo bickered, argued and scored points off each other. Yet in this was a pathos of two people who had been dealt a poor hand of cards and were trying to play them out as best they could. Comedy and tragedy at its most poignant.
Even for “youngsters” who never saw the original series this evening’s entertainment is a delight – excellent local theatre from The Priory. Highly recommended!