Two years ago, the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company staged three episodes of Blackadder, risking criticism from die-hard Blackadder fans, after all, it takes a strong cast to step into the shoes of Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson, Tim McInnerney and Stephen Fry.
This week, however, largely based on the success of that production, the skilled writing of Richard Curtis and Ben Elton once more graces the Hippodrome stage, and, given the various end of the First World War commemorative events planned for this year, the three episodes chosen are both apt and clever, having the capacity to bring echoes of laughter roaring up into the theatre’s flies, with one exception.
The end of the third chosen episode, ‘Goodbye’, is something that many audiences will recognise from the history books; it delivers a stillness of heart and mind, a deep sadness and a silent awe and respect for those who unwittingly joined a war that was sold to them as a thrilling experience, and an honour to take part in, both for their country and for themselves.
And it is that aspect of the recruiting process that is cleverly crafted and delivered through the sweet and naïve Lieutenant George, who appears to believe with all his heart, until the very last scene, that he wanted to be immersed in the desperateness of war.
The laughter that resonated with such mirth, turns to gunfire, and the beloved characters on stage become dust.
The first night’s small audience was appreciative having been moved to both laughter and tears.
The combination of clever scripts, wonderful performances and inspired staging is a winning one: the Hippodrome’s cast is without weakness, and without flaw. Characterisation was superb.
Wonderful effects supported the performances – taking to the skies (Blackadder and Baldrick), the filthy weather in the trenches, the smell of the gunfire – lighting and sound being just right under the direction of Rosemary Osborne, there was much that could have gone wrong with this production, but it did not.
The biggest doffing of caps has to go, however, to the skilled and dedicated cast: Darren Williams (Blackadder), Matt Whatley (General Melchett), Steve Grist (Private Baldrick), Riz Riley (Captain Darling), Josh Hindle (Lieutenant George), Chris Williams (Wing Commander The Lord Flasheart), Holly Fairburn (Driver Bob Parkhurst), Ken Horsfield (Baron Von Richthofen/Field Marshall Haig) and Andy Bell (Oberleutnant Von Gerhardt).
Tickets for Friday and Saturday can be reserved on 01282 617315 or booked at ticketsource.co.uk/phtheatre