Cunning EPT Foxes

April 4, 2016 | By | Reply More

EPT go forth with classic Blackadder

Edinburgh People’s Theatre is staging a rare production of classic BBC comedy Blackadder this week at the Church Hill Theatre.

Under the direction of Kirsty Boyle, the company will be bringing three episodes of the BAFTA award winning Blackadder Goes Forth out of the trenches and onto the Church Hill stage.

Baldrick, George, Blackadder and Darling salute Melchet. Photo Mario McPherson/Kirsty Boyle

Baldrick, George, Blackadder and Darling salute Melchet. Photo Mario McPherson/Kirsty Boyle

The rare staging came about quite by chance when Boyle, an EPT regular,  was offered the chance to direct a show for the company. She was asked by a friend if she had a “cunning plan” about what to stage and the germ of the idea was born – as Blackadder would have put it: she had a plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

It was simply a matter of Edinburgh People’s Theatre asking the series creator, Richard Curtis, and getting his agreement to produce the three episodes of the cult show in return for a donation to Comic Relief.

Originally broadcast by the BBC in 1989, Blackadder Goes Forth, was the fourth instalment of the popular saga following the Blackadder dynasty – this time seeing Captain Edmund Blackadder and his trusty sidekick, Baldrick, serving in the trenches during WWI.

Joined by dim-witted George and followed somewhat further behind by General Melchett and his own right-hand man, Captain Darling, the play sees the well-known characters manoeuvre their way through a series of cunning plans in an attempt to escape from No Man’s Land.

Iconic

Boyle went to meet the original TV series producer, John Lloyd, last year to discuss the production. Staging such an iconic piece of comedy history comes with its own burden, as she found out.

John Lloyd with Kirsty Boyle

John Lloyd with Kirsty Boyle

“Everyone I mention it to says they love the programme,” Boyle says. “Which adds a fair bit of pressure to be producing such a fondly remembered and well-loved piece. I mean, who doesn’t still have that final scene when they go over the top in their mind?

“When I told John Lloyd of my fears he simply said ‘Just go for it!’, so we have and I hope we can do it justice.”

The first of the three episodes EPT is producing is Captain Cook, in which Blackadder volunteers to be an Official War Artist, not realising that a commission to paint a cover for thoroughly absorbent propaganda magazine King and Country is just a ruse for a highly dangerous secret mission.

The second is Major Star, with everyone talking about the famous comedian Charlie Chaplin, Blackadder volunteers to organise a variety show in the hope that it will be shifted to the London Palladium. Unfortunately, Melchett has fallen in love with his leading lady, the fair Georgina – George dressed as a woman.

over the top

The final episode is the famous Goodbyeee. It’s 1917 and millions have died but the troops have advanced no further than “an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping”. And, in the final act of the series, the main characters – Melchet apart – finally do go over the top.

So will the transfer from small screen to big stage succeed? Boyle says her cast are working hard to make sure the audience enjoys the comedy show they remember. In the main cast, she has Mike Brownsell playing Blackadder with Iain Menzies as Baldrick. Simon Eilbeck plays George and Pat Hymers is Darling, with Graham Bell playing Melchett.

With some audience members travelling from abroad for the experience, the pressure is even greater on all concerned.

Boyle adds: “I’m incredibly proud of how they have all stepped into some rather famous shoes yet managed to make their performances unique. I very much hope our audiences enjoy some escapism when they come to see the show and a few wee surprises along the way!”

Listing

Blackadder Goes Forth
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 6 – Saturday 9 April 2016.
Evenings Wed – Fri: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat 9: 2.30pm.
Tickets: £12 (£10) from www.ept.org.uk/boxoffice
By phone (from Ticketsource): 0333 666 3366

EPT on Facebook: EdinburghPeoplesTheatre
EPT on Twitter: @EPeoplesTheatre

Blackadder Goes Forth on Twitter: @BlackadderEdin

ENDS

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