The Museum of Comedy is a small wonder in the centre of London, filling the niche that is light entertainment history with a modest, but fascinating collection. It also hosts small theatrical productions such as this revival of the classic sitcom from Hambleton Productions, starring Jeremy Smith as Albert and John Hewer as Harold.
Galton and Simpson have endorsed this rip-roaring trip though these selected episodes (Divided We Stand, Men of Letters and Come Dancing, with excerpts from The Bath and Steptoe and Son – and Son!), which is, y’know, nice. It also must be said that Smith and Hewer’s performances are strong, even if Smith is a little too genial to fully convince me as the prickly Steptoe Senior. The staging was also beautifully streamlined, whilst feeling very authentic.
However, one thing lurked at the back of my head which bothered me; the point. I’ve recently watched my way through all the surviving ‘Steptoe and Son’ episodes, and felt very much like I was sitting through a sort of theatrical karaoke, with all the slots reserved by Smith and Hewer. I didn’t resent their excellent performances, but the fact that I can see the originals from the comfort of my own living room left me wondering exactly what niche this production served. I enjoyed a revival of ‘Round the Horne’ in this venue, despite being familiar with the show, so I’m not objecting in principle; so perhaps it’s the novelty of seeing a pitch-perfect version of a radio production in the flesh which works better than simply a facsimile of a TV show.
Still, the audience, who were overwhelmingly people who would have seen the show on first broadcast, certainly enjoyed themselves, and the actors were clearly having a ball, which is always good to see. So, a nice bit of fun, and if you fancy that, you certainly won’t be disappointed.