A Steptoe Back in Time That Just Doesn't Work

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Steptoe Back in Time That Just Doesn't Work


Review STEPTOE AND SON IN MURDER AT OIL DRUM LANE .....

By Nicholas de Jongh at Comedy FEBRUARY is about the cruellest month of the year for the West End stage. Audience figures slump. Desperate producers bring in shows which should have had the decency to expire en route to London.

Steptoe And Son In Murder At Oil Drum Lane duly offers an unamusing attempt to raise a play from the ashes of that lovely Sixties BBC comedy series: ragandbone men Albert and Harold symbiotically caught in a father-son, love-hate bond.

These born-again Steptoes give rise to chronic nostalgia and little else.

Even I relished the familiar cry of "You dirty old man", de l ivered by Jake Nightingale's Harold to Har r y D ickman's Albert. Both of them are highly convincing impersonators of the TV actors, Harry H Corbett and Wilfred Brambell. Nightingale's adenoidal attempts at poshness and the hunched Dickman's croaky leer of a voice are delightful. Yet in this York Theatre production little of the Steptoe humour and inventiveness survives. Weak, revue- like sequences trace the father-son relationship from Harold's Thirties boyhood to his own old age.

Nobody's pleasure will be spoiled if I reveal the first scene lets you into the secret posed by the title and offers an answer.

The Steptoes' home has, ridiculously, become a National Trust property which designer Nigel Hook packs with tacky bric---brac. …

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