Are you being Served

Date 25th May 2017
Society In Your Face Theatre (Seaham)
Venue Seaham Town Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Brian Leach

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Author: Peter Oliver

As a fan of the seventies sitcom “Are You Been Served” I was excited when I received my invitation to review In your Face Theatre interpretation of one of Britain’s best loved sitcoms which ran from  1972 till 1985 showing 69 episodes. This iconic sitcom was famous for its naughty and unending double entendres and colourful characters.  Brian Leach was chosen by the group to direct this play and whilst Brian has a vast knowledge and experience in directing musicals and concerts this was his first for plays and no doubt this will not be his last as it was clear from the cast that they took his direction very serious especially in pursuit of their characters which were well received by the audience. Congratulations to all those who helped with the set, it looked very authentic, I loved the way they created the ladies and gents department of Grace Brothers in act one and the hotel in act two which looked very realistic especially the “pent house” (tents) and the wooden convenience  which gave plenty of cause for laughter. Costumes were great and in keeping with the era and I loved Mrs Slocombe’s wigs which were big and colourful. Technically the lighting was good and just hearing the overture of the parping horns and ringing cash registers was enough to evoke the fading memories and take me back to the seventies, it was a shame that cast did not have microphones as I did on a few occasions loose some of the lines and jokes.
It was great to see Derek Sparey back treading the boards as the young Mr Grace and he certainly did justice to the character well performed and great stage presence David Jackson gave us a believable performance as Mr Rumbold and interacted well with his fellow cast members as the store manager, Jonathon Ryan had a uncanny resemblance as Mr Grainger although much younger and he did spent most of his time running backwards and forwards to the loo. Barry Thomas was well cast as Captain Peacock he maintained that pompous air of authority and I loved the interaction between his character and Mrs Slocombe. Peter Baker delivered a convincing Mr Lucas the cheeky junior sales clerk in the men’s department with his hot passion for women especially Miss Brahms played by Yvonne Newton who was well cast with her cockney accent and flirtatious manner delivered a sterling performance. Peter Round delivered a good performance as Mr Mash the interfering maintenance man again some great scenes especially the scene with the mannequins, but for me the most two iconic characters of the show were Mrs Slocombe played by Anne Malpass, Anne captured the blowzy character with her ever changing wigs and her constant reference to her pussy, fantastically she is a  first class performer and an excellent character actress, delivering an equal performance was Jon Isbell as Mr Humphries he again captured the character of Mr Humphries to a tee with his mincing walk and high pitched voice and catch phrase “I’m free” excellent acting and a strong performance I particularly enjoyed the scene when the cast were dressed in  lederhosen  costumes well-choreographed and great comic timing.
The second act took the employees of Grace Bothers on holiday to Costa Plonka where we were introduced to further colourful characters especially the hotel owner Don Bernardo, played by Norma Ord excellent character and as ever Norma put her heart and soul into the character, as did the very sexy Catherine Hillam as Conchita a senorita employed at the hotel and who took a very particular interest in Mr Humphries. Donna Hanley played a duel role as Taeresa a Spanish dancer at the hotel and back in England a customer at Grace Brothers as did Nathan Vose who played the passionate Cesar a ruthless terrorist and revolutionary again some good scenes and comic timing.
No show is ever complete without those cast members who deliver cameo roles and bind the show together congratulations to Rhianna Gillibrand who played the nurse and Neil Chapman and Aimee Honnor as ensemble.
This was an excellent performance delivered by some great actors who certainly enjoyed every minute on stage in truth some of the jokes may be a bit dated but for me it still has the traditional British humour that can still capture an audience and “ In your face theatre” for me did a sterling job and sent the audience home remising of a past era. Well done to everyone.