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“ARE YOU BEING SERVED”


Another play based on an iconic TV series, and whilst I remember a lot of the scenarios used, I thought it was probably the most difficult of this type of play to produce.  The scenes were many, and I was not convinced that the writers had got it right by using the annual Grace Brothers holiday as the setting for Acts 2 & 3 – I am sure it would have made better live theatre if it had all been based in the store, as that is where we know the characters best.


However that said, I think that overall TADS made a fairly good showing, and we did get a good evening’s entertainment, with lots of laughs from a rather dodgy script.


Sometimes where these TV series-based plays fall down is by actors trying to emulate and copy the originals, and I think the audience needs that reference, but also needs to have a new take on those characters, so that it is not just an impressions show.  In some cases this worked – I was particularly impressed by Rory White’s take on Mr Humphries, Malcolm Steven’s ‘Mr Mash’ and although I don’t usually like the concept of women playing men or vice versa (except in pantomime), I thought Janet Bray did a very good Mr Grainger.


The set worked well, the lift for the store was good, and the placing of the two counters, and the male mannequin who had strangely moving parts due to the addition of false teeth from the joke department was an extremely funny moment.  The hotel set with the tents was also good, and the concept of upright beds to make the best use of space was also well thought out and used.


Kevin Birkett was an authoritative Captain Peacock, but I would have liked a bit more military bearing, which was inherent in the character, to create a direct contrast with the other sales staff.


Jane Horton got the essence of Mrs Slocombe, and loved her entrance via the lift – very funny.  However, I was not impressed by her wig – Mrs Slocombe, in the days when the play was set, would have been very smart, without a hair out of place.  I enjoyed what she did with the part, but would have liked her to be a bit more overtly snobbish.


Jenna Kay gave us a fairly straight Miss Brahms, I liked the way she explained her ethos for getting good meals from boyfriends, without giving them anything else!! – and on the whole the character worked well, but I didn’t get enough of the difference in class between Mrs Slocombe and Miss Brahms, to get a contrast in their characters.


As a good female contrast I liked Emma Dawson as Conchita, she created a lively young lady, who was a different dimension within the cast.


Simon Tuck created his own take on Mr Lucas – the young sales assistant, learning his craft, but also learning how to be a hit with the ladies.  A new face to TADS, and hope we see more of him as he develops his craft.


I have already said I liked Janet Bray as Mr Grainger – again the essence of the character was there, but she put her own spin on it, and gave us the other end of the age spectrum to Mr Lucas and Miss Brahms – very well played.


Mr Rumbold was played by Andrew Naish, a difficult part, as he fell between the older and younger sales staff, but I didn’t feel the part made any real impact.


Mr Humphries was very nicely played by Rory White, nicely camp, without being too OTT, and very definitely one of the better performances in the play.  Well done Rory.


Malcolm Steven was good as Mr Mash, the store cleaner, with some very well-studied moments when dusting the female mannequin – he created some good situations with the other members of staff.  


David Hillman created a manic Don Bernado, whose hotel the Grace Brothers staff pitched up to – some of what he did was amusing, which added contrast to the other characters.


Harry Rodgers played Mr Grace with his usual aplomb, supported by Emma Dawson as his secretary.


Molly Harper and Rachael Garside played the other smaller parts.


The bows were a little old hat – as the bows are an important part of the production, and should be given more time and emphasis.  


I felt that there was a lack of pace overall – plus I wanted a little more dimension to be created by the characters.  However, it was a popular choice for the audience, and it was nice to see a nearly full house in these times when audience levels are dropping.









TADS Theatre Group

ARE YOU BEING SERVED

review date 28th September 2013

Director: Jaymes Sygrove

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