The World Premiere tour of Nigel Planer’s All Above Board came to life at the Gladstone Theatre in Port Sunlight this week before heading off around the North and Midlands.
It was wonderful to be back at the Gladstone theatre after such a long time of it being closed due to Covid and it was as homely and welcoming as ever. Nothing is too much in this theatre and that is why people continue to return time and time again
All Above Board is a hilarious farce where a good deed ends up going as horribly wrong as it possibly could but with much wit and laughter along the way.
Set in the living room of a flat, it had a feeling of Not Going Out with a hint of Fawlty Towers and a huge nod to The Young Ones, the show that writer, Planer, is so well known for.
Robert Stuart-Hudson in the pivotal role of Timothy Upton-Fell really was the glue that holds this piece together. With excellent comic timing, plenty of physical comedy that would give John Cleese a run for his money and the confidence to run around the stage with his trousers down, he really kept the piece ticking along.
Ray Sutton as Sir Ommany Jones was brilliant. A character living with Pick’s disease, you get to see many sides of this character, but the risqué, cheeky side to him really had the audience laughing out loud. Katia/Phones played by Vikki Earle were two characters delivered very well, both completely different to each other but played with such confidence and likeability.
Connor Simkins as the larger than life Matthew Board excelled as a typical over the top Television presenter, oozing confidence but it was nice to see this character develop to see the other side to the TV personality, the loneliness and craving for constant attention.
The other characters were nice and played mostly well although I found that one or two characters didn’t add much to the story, and this is where the downfall was for me personally. I felt the play was quite long, dragged out in parts, so much so, I was wishing for more of the jokes to come along to keep the pace moving. There were parts of the story that seemed to be added just to fill out time rather than adding to the story. I wanted a punchy, hilarious farce from beginning to end but felt like there were funny bits that led to a funny few minutes towards the end.
There was a fair bit of crude language throughout and many adult themed metaphors and double entendre which is definitely not for the feint hearted or underage.
The set was very basic, made up of flimsy looking walls and a few pieces of furniture to create the living space. There was a specific part of the wall which was important to the story but sadly could not be seen by anyone of the left side of the audience so this is maybe something that needs looking at. When doors slammed the walls shook or pushed through losing the illusion that they were real walls and doors. This may have been intentional to give the 80s vibe, but I feel it didn’t work in these circumstances. I also got confused as to why they climbed stairs when leaving through a door to the bedrooms when it was set in a flat. Lighting was basic but didn’t need much as it was all set in one room and sound was fine, I could hear well enough and the parts off stage were heard also.
As much as I enjoyed lots of parts, to me it felt a little under rehearsed, especially one or two characters and I personally feel the script, set and overall pace of the piece needs looking at and maybe reworking as this has the bones of a really funny, clever piece but as it is just now, it just felt flat and a little long winded.
If you are a fan of the Young Ones or that style of comedy, then you will find this play very enjoyable.
Reviewer: Damian Riverol
Reviewed: 25th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★