first night

Blackadder the Third

Helen Chatterton enjoys an evening of foolish comedy in Ooook's latest production.

Ooook! Productions’ latest work, Blackadder the Third, is a true celebration of the original television show, and promises an evening of entertainment to anyone with an appreciation of foolishness. The portrayal of three episodes played back to back follow Blackadder the Third (played by Tyler Rainford), and his misadventures with Prince George (Alex Colville) and the second biggest village idiot in Kensington, Baldrick (Grace Longman).

The production is driven by its humour, which varies from politically astute to just plain silliness. As in the original series, the plots are easy to follow and allow for a focus on comedy—something the cast and production team have truly embraced. The three principles should be commended for their ability to leave an audience laughing. Rainford embodies the dry satire of Rowan Atkinson, Longman is almost too convincing in their portrayal of the fool, and Colville has mastered the art of the bumbling, flailing caricature. The latter’s impersonation of a chicken epitomised the attitude of the production as a whole. His onstage father King George (Matt Elliot-Ripley) was similarly delightful. His portrayal of the mad German King was very adept. Other prominent successes came from Max Lindon as Turnip Boy, who despite having no lines, each of his appearances were hysterical.

The technical side of the production was also impressive. The stage design lent itself well to the three principle settings, as well as demonstrating a high level of attention to detail, and gave no indication of being a student production. In particular, the state room of Prince George captured the essence of the late eighteenth century. The lighting design was also intelligent, and was an effective indicator of both time and location. Throughout the entire performance there was only one audio mistake with the late misfire of a gun, but even this became a comedic moment of its own, thanks to the professionalism of Patrick Palmer as the Duke of Wellington. Prior to such it had been faultless.  A minor complaint could be found in that the off-stage amplification of the voices of the poets was somewhat distorted and hard to discern some words.

Costuming was very well done, with all characters looking like they could have stepped out of the TV production. If some of the wigs weren’t supposed to fall off when they did, it was not an obvious flaw, as it seemed to be another element of comedy. The only less convincing costume was that of MacAdder, whose souvenir shop style, tartan hat and wig seemed out of place.

The decision to run the show in three episodes was reminiscent of binge watching TV. Despite the three individual storylines, the performance made an entertaining whole. The only issue with such was that at the beginning of the second interval, some audience members were unsure as to whether or not the performance had finished.

The production has great spirit, and anyone who values good-natured, foolish and even hyperbolic comedy, is guaranteed an enjoyable evening, regardless of any prior experience of the original show. Those who fear attending in case it does not live up to such should not worry, for the production is blessed with both a talented cast and production team, and will not disappoint. What’s more, profits go to Comic Relief, so it’s all for a good cause.

22 June 2017

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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