Monday, April 22

Steptoe and Son – Birkenhead Little Theatre

Perfectly timed, well-staged and loaded with laughs, the Carlton Players production of Steptoe and Son is not to be missed.

Performing three episodes of the legendary TV series, the company revived the art of performance. The audiences have previously suggested which shows should be included and these are the ones that are brought to life on stage. There is a feel of the audience being part of the production as you view.

Steptoe and Son, directed by Steve Youster, includes Desperate Hours; Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard; and Live Now P.A.Y.E later.

Before attending I wasn’t a Steptoe and Son fan – I didn’t think the jokes landed very well and am too young to enjoy the nostalgia factor that a show like this can bring. However, seeing the episodes brought to life on stage in this manner gives the original Galton and Simpson scripting more space to be appreciated and the actors more freedom to time lines to the audience feedback.

The performance is split into three segments, each being an episode. There are short breaks in between each rather than one long interval halfway. Considering there are three different plots to accommodate, the staging is well-planned and effective in creating both depth and ambience.

The laughs are non-stop.

Keith Hill (Albert Steptoe) and Mike Sanders (Harold Steptoe) hold the line brilliantly in the lead roles. From befriending father-son convicts Ferris (Barry Prescott) and Spooner (Ted Grant) to falling for the bewitching but fraudulent Madame Fontana (Debbie Smith) and Dorothy Duddy (Dawn Ashford) there are knowing looks into the audience, playful nuances and gentle father son moments.

The main set is the living room where no detail has been left to chance. From the skeleton in the corner to the kettle, everything has been chosen and placed for a purpose. Behind this main set, there is a secondary scene depicting the entrance to the shop – this is highly effective in building up audience anticipation for guests and also in showing two scenes in parallel.

You feel both within the production and an observer.

Set switches are minimal but on the odd occasion they featured they were a little slower than hoped. However, this is magnified by the contrasting fast-pace of the comedy and absorption the audience has when viewing the production – it stands out when something interrupts the flow of laughs.

The chemistry between company on stage for this production is exceptional. Due to this, the comedy comes across as being completely original and unplanned. The costuming creates believable characters, and the actors verbal and non-verbal communication has the audience mesmerised. If you are looking for an entertaining evening packed with laughter and feel-good factor, see this.

As one guest put it as they left; “that was hysterical!”

Content warning: Mild swearing, occasional jokes that are of the context of the time. Suitable for ages 12yrs+.

Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle

Reviewed: 30th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★