Steptoe & Son (review)

Steptoe & Son
Steptoe & Son

Galton & Simpson have made a name for themselves turning the misery of others into television gems.

Hancock gave a generation of new TV viewers an iconic and unique comic while Steptoe & Son presented a pair of scruffy west London totters whose love-hate relationship kept us chuckling for 14 wonderful years.

Kneehigh has taken four original scripts from the Steptoe canon and come up with a new stage production that fetched up at the Royal & Derngate last week and it was a bit of a curate’s egg.

On the one hand we had the unique and quirky touches that make Kneehigh’s shows so memorable but it failed to engage me

I couldn’t understand why the ever aspiring Harold and his filthy, uncouth dad, Albert, had been socially cleansed from the streets of Shepherd’s Bush for the rural back alleys of Cornwall.

The accent was totally wrong and robbed many of the funny lines of their laughs. At times Harold’s carping at his dad’s failures sounded like Matt Lucas’ Vicky Pollard.

The casting too was curious. Director and adaptor Emma Rice had wisely decided not to cast two lookalikes but I was lost with her choice of Harold. In the TV series Harry H Corbett may have been a rag and bone man but he dressed like a king of the road. He was dapper, always trying to impress, always trying to conceal his very humble roots.

But the out-sized Dean Nolan was anything but in a filthy vest and greasy hair. The best that could be said for Nolan and his Albert (Mike Shepherd) was that they made a great Little and Large. What they didn’t make was a great comedy duo.

But you can’t fault the foundations. The four skits chosen – The Offer, The Bird, The Holiday and Two’s Company –gave us a look into the men’s lifestyle. It was one bereft of women although the lovely and strange Kirsty Woodward, playing “Woman” provided temptation and intrigue as she floated in and out of each sketch.

The humour was hit or miss and I found myself enjoying the 1960s soundtrack more than some of the scenes.

Perhaps this was one strictly for Kneehigh Fans.