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Clippety-Clopping down Memory Lane

Steptoe and Son, Priory Theatre, until June 9 I’m old enough to remember the original black and white pilot episode of this Galton and Simpson comedy classic and was curious to know how it would transfer to the stage over half a century later. For the benefit of younger readers, the Steptoes are a struggling father and son ‘rag-and-bone man’ outfit complete with a horse and cart to collect junk from around their neighbourhood. The Priory treats us to three of the TV episodes set in the 60’s and early 70’s and the authentic set looked exactly as I remember the TV series including the stuffed bear, the skeleton and the goldfish! The tragic comedy stories are about the co-dependant but resentful relationship between the father, Albert and his reluctant son Harold. The manipulative Albert is a World War 1 veteran with some very dirty habits and is superbly portrayed by Paul Muldoon who displayed an identical accent, movements and facial expressions to those of used by the iconic Wilfrid Brambell all those years ago. There is also an excellent performance from Tim Guest as the aspirational but frustrated Harold for whom any opportunities for upward social mobility have sadly passed by and he appears to be trapped in this depressing environment and unable to fulfil his potential. Whenever Harold sees an opportunity for advancement he seems to be thwarted by the old man and this is nicely illustrated in the three chosen scenes. First, Harold sees a potential new career as a writer and then sees an opportunity for early retirement when he gets hold of a Regency commode. Finally he dreams of spending an exotic Christmas abroad while Steptoe Snr prefers to go to the usual boarding house in Bognor Regis. The scripts are understandably rather dated and what was seen as risqué in the 60s, now appears rather tame. However full marks should be given to the Director and the cast and, although they may not mean a great deal to younger generations, those of us of a certain age will enjoy an evening of pure nostalgia.