Blackadder Goes Forth, Rugby Theatre, to Nov 24.
A "cunning plan" that worked - that's Rugby Theatre’s stage adaptation of the fourth series of the classic TV sitcom written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton.
Adapting such a well-loved show where most of the audience could quote (or misquote) much of the script poses real challenge - and Rugby Theatre rose to it magnificently, reproducing the humour and poignancy of the original in a way that thoroughly engaged the audience.
This production used three episodes from the original: Captain Cook, in which Baldrick cooks up another cunning plan to leave the trenches; Private Plane in which we meet Squadron Commander Lord Flasheart when Blackadder joins the "20 minuters" of the Royal Flying Corps, and Goodbyeee in which our heroes finally go over the top.
Strong performances from all the cast conveyed the essence of the original characters and the subtle and not-so-subtle interactions between them.
John Harrison did well as Captain Edmund Blackadder, trying to cope with the hopelessness of life in the trenches with humour and sharp ripostes. And the hopelessness was emphasised by the power of Steve Bingham's performance as the mad and dangerous General Hogmanay Melchett.
Much of the pathos of the play, particularly the Captain Cook and Goodbyeee acts, revolved around the interaction of the three heroes: Blackadder, Baldrick, and George.
Gavin Yeats was spot on as the stupid and long-suffering Baldrick and Chris Allen Mason was very convincing in his portrayal of the naïve optimism of Lieutenant George.
Robert Warner was excellent as Captain Darling, with lots of subtlety in his performance. You really felt sorry for him when he was ordered to join the others to go over the top.
Robert Sloan certainly made an impact as Squadron Commander Lord Flasheart in Private Plane, doing real justice to the Rik Mayall character from the TV series. This Act saw Blackadder joining the 20 minuters of the RFC, not realising they were called this because it was the average life expectancy of a new pilot.
Ellie Derrick was excellent as Bobby Parkhurst, as were Tim Sell as Baron von Richthofen and Nick Marsh as Oberleutnant von Gerhardt and Field Marshal Haig.
The play was cleverly introduced by Deita Hubbard as a warm-up, inviting the audience to be the audience for the filming of the Blackadder shows. They certainly seemed to play their part with plenty of laughter in all the right places.
The set was cleverly created, allowing the players to move easily between scenes. This, together with wonderful uniforms and video effects were a credit to the production team.
As with the TV series the final scene was simple but very poignant, marking the end of an entertaining and memorable production.
For tickets go to: http://www.rugbytheatre.co.uk
Pictured: Robert Warner, Ellie Derrick, and Steve Bingham.