London Theatre Review: This is why Only Fools & Horses works…
Posted on 17 May 2019
Perhaps out of all the shows I'm lucky enough to review, this was the one was I was least looking forward to. Having been a life-long OFAH fan, I was aware that turning the show into a musical may result in fan backlash. Nevertheless, I trotted down to the Theatre Royal Haymarket to see how the production based in 1980's Peckham would fare.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Tom Bennett in the role of Del Boy could have been a doppelganger, not in looks but in character and personality; the confluence he brings to his version of Del is second to none, raising a laugh from the audience in all the right places and peppering every piece of dialogue with well-known and well-loved catchphrases such as "don’t be a plonker," etc. However, this became overpowering, most of the favourites were dispatched with machine gun military precision within the first act.
A more than able Ryan Hutton takes on Rodney in abundance, hammering home the infamous drawl and the fact that he had GCE's. Hutton managed to nail the role with ease almost twinning with Nicholas Lyndhurst but in no way impersonating him. Paul Whitehouse in the dual roles of Uncle Albert and Grandad was flawless with every nuance on point. It's clear that Whitehouse has made magic here, he is having a good time and that is infectious.
The standout performance for me was Peter Baker in the role of Trigger, which is a tricky role to play due to his gormlessness and lack of intelligence. But being able to have an impact on the audience is not an easy thing to pull off. Baker takes to this was aplomb, delivering his lines with ease even when he was playing with his (crystal) ball in a somewhat out-of-place scene given the context of the production.
Diane Pilkington (Raquel) is endearing, Pippa Duffy (Cassandra) is sweetly naïve, Samantha Seager (Marlene) and Jeff Nicholson (Boycie) perfectly paired. Andrew Irvine (Denzil) and Chris Kiely (Mickey Pearce) played to each other and the fourth wall perfectly.
The staging and set at the Haymarket leave little doubt that we are in the Nag's Head, and the revolving set only highlights the interior of the Nelson Mandela house, this indeed is almost identical to the TV set and a firm nod should be given to the set designer Liz Ashcroft for a terrific job well done. In addition to being set to a series of catchy, toe-tapping tunes, the musical has managed to acknowledge every outstanding moment of the 64 episodes of Fools, which is no easy feat.
This is a show worth a punt.
Long Live Hookey Street.
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