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Sit Com served up on stage

PUBLISHED: 12:12 06 November 2008 | UPDATED: 17:16 16 August 2010

BRIT OF ALRIGHT: The cast of Are You Being Served? were inspired.

BRIT OF ALRIGHT: The cast of Are You Being Served? were inspired.

I M FREE! ... You ve all done very well ... And I am unanimous in that!   What could it be but the quintessential 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? - brought to the stage recently by the Erith Playhouse, writes Mark Campbell. Written by Jeremy Lloyd an

I'M FREE!"..."You've all done very well"..."And I am unanimous in that!"

What could it be but the quintessential 1970s sitcom Are You Being Served? - brought to the stage recently by the Erith Playhouse, writes Mark Campbell.

Written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, the script is unfortunately based on the dire 1977 film version, which sees the Grace Brothers staff sent to a Spanish hotel for no readily apparent reason.

The upshot of this is that the second half is nothing more than a generic Carry On Camping style farce which has nothing much to do with anything.

However, that said, there are plenty of good jokes in both halves and director John McLaren (assisted by Ken Swan and Debbie Hoyle) chose a superb cast to inhabit the iconic characters.

My only criticism was the tatty department store itself, which was devoid of set dressing and lacked any kind of authenticity.

The Spanish hotel was marginally better, but the amateurishly painted decor suggested a distinctly rushed job.

But this sort of show really depends on the quality of the characterizations, and in this it was undoubtedly a triumph.

Steve Padgham was clearly born to play Mr Humphries. Camper than a row of tents (the main feature of Act Two), he was every inch John Inman - despite being hampered by an ill-fitting suit and a lack of space to mince around properly.

Annette Marchant as Mrs Slocombe was also excellent, delivering such hilarious single entrendres as "Would you hold my pussy?" with breezy insouciance.

She was a perfect foil for Emma Holland's brassy turn as Miss Brahms.

Hugh Wooton - resembling 'Man at C&A' in his '70s suit and wig - was ideal as the incorrigible bachelor Mr Lucas, forever lusting after Miss Brahms.

Nigel Taylor did his best as the militaristic Captain Peacock, and John Marchant, Clive Madel and Ken Swan were all good in minor roles. Newcomer Kirsty Pallen impressed as the busty nurse and sexy Spanish maid. Well, she impressed me anyway. But special mention goes to Richard Banks, who gave two splendid performances as cheeky maintenance man Mr Mash and frenetic hotel manager Don Bernado, the latter an extended (an entirely successful) audition for the part of harassed innkeeper Rene in 'Allo 'Allo.

* The next production at the Erith Playhouse is the musical The Hired Man by Melvyn Bragg and Howard Goodall, from 10-15 November. Tickets: 01322 350345.

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