‘Open All Hours’ is a very funny stage play based on Roy Clarke’s enormously popular BBC TV sitcom of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Roy is one of the few writers to receive a British Comedy Lifetime Achievement Award, this he received for having written ‘Open All Hours’, ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ (for 37 years) and ‘Keeping up Appearances’.
Roy didn’t really start writing professionally until he was about forty, but then continued producing scripts for another 42 years. He was awarded the Freedom of the City by Doncaster, his birthplace and where ‘Open all Hours’ is based. This production has been gathered from snippets of the more amusing passages of the series, and then, under strict BBC regulations, skilfully edited together by Jacqui Warner and Graham Sharpe.
This two and a quarter hour, Australian Premiere is presented by the Serial Production Company at the Old Mill Theatre, corner Mill Point Road and Mends Street, South Perth. The play is on every night at 8.00 until Saturday 3rd November; the matinees on Sunday 28th October and Saturday 3rd November have curtain up at 2.00 pm.
$2 from every ticket goes to the Leukaemia Foundation in memory of Gemma’s dad, Graham Sharpe – even miserly Arkwright would be proud to donate.
It is 1976, in a small corner grocery shop in the outskirts of Doncaster. The crack of dawn has arrived and the young delivery boy is opening up for another day of business. It is not long before the stuttering, miserly shop owner, Mr Arkwright (Alan Morris) is again bullying his nervous nephew, Granville (Peter Clark). Just as the bread deliveryman (David Seman) is leaving his tray, a pedantic man (Brendan Tobin) calls to point out a spelling mistake on a notice outside – can he escape Arkwright’s clutches?
Soon Mr Bristow, V.A.T. man (Ray Egan) calls, but Arkwright knows precisely how to deal with him.
Later in the day, a posh woman (Clare Wood) cannot believe her luck finding such a quaint, historical establishment still in existence. At the other extreme of the shoppers are the two local tarts (Gemma Sharpe and Kylie Calwell) whose presence brightens up Granville’s bland and frustrating life. How will Arkwright feel when Nurse Gladys Emmanuel shows some affection for Granville?
The day turns out to be a b-b-busy one, but not only in this outdated deli.
When going to see a play based on a TV series, there is a huge expectation to ‘see’ the characters themselves. I am a massive Ronnie Barker fan and so my expectations of seeing a performer anywhere near Barker’s standard was low, surely no one could capture the unique merchant; however, Alan Morris was an astonishing doppelganger for Arkwright, in both appearance and voice. Peter Clark captured all of Granville’s mannerisms and his frustrated innocence. Jacqui Warner was perfect as the voluptuous Nurse Gladys, guarding her ‘property’. The script was exceptionally funny, but the audience seemed to miss so many of the doublé-entendres.
The set could easily have been a couple of shelves with a few tins strategically placed; instead, the team has gone for an outstandingly convincing, well-stocked shop. With a street, a shop, a back lane, and a kitchen all to be fitted onto a 24 sq. metre stage, the challenge must have been horrendous. This was made even more difficult to achieve with the play being set in the 70s.
The amount of effort by award winning designer, George Boyd, and his fellow set constructor and artist (Brendan Tobin) is obvious, the little extras (props manger, Lesley Sutton helped by stage manager Rob Warner) and attention to detail gives the whole place authenticity. There was a small problem, the front two rows have their eye line partially blocked by the brick wall representing the shop front and the side counter, unfortunately, I cannot make any suggestions to solve this.
Director, David Gregory, has selected an excellent cast, most playing several parts. They have a natural chemistry and comedic delivery. Great pace and very acceptable Yorkshire accents. It was a delight to see the costumes and hairdos of the day brought back to life.
The complex lighting, sound effects and tech operation by Mike Hart was flawless.
Most nights are already sold out, however one group booking early in the week has collapsed, and so there are a few tickets left on that night. The Old Mill now has their own on-line booking service.
This was just like being in the TV studio audience, with fine acting and myriad of laughs. Superb.
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