In the theatre bar people in labelled clothes were ordering doubles and cocktails with umbrellas in. They pushed their faces through the holes of the cardboard cutouts of the show’s three stars in order to have a photo taken of them pretending to be their heroes. This was not the usual theatregoing crowd, this was the audience for Only Fools and Horses and they were on a Jolly Boys’ Outing, writes Michael Holland.
The set revolved to become in turn The Nag’s Head, the Trotters’ tower block flat or the market where Del Boy and Rodney sold their dodgy wares. The first hurdle was getting over the fact that these look-a-like, sound-a-like players were not the originals, but once that barrier was surmounted this was just like watching an episode of the nation’s favourite sitcom.
They were all there, Trigger and his broom, Boycie and his nasal laugh, Mickey Pearce and Denzil, Mike behind the bar, Raquel and Cassandra, Marlene and, of course, the Holy Trinity of Del Boy, Rodney and Granddad.
There’s not much of a plot here, in fact it felt more like Part 1 of a ‘to be continued’ story – And with so many loose ends I wasn’t even sure it had ended. But this does not take away from the joy of seeing these characters up there on the stage, it just makes us love them more. We nudged partners when a legendary old scene was hinted at; we nodded knowingly at the mention of Batman and Robin; our expectations were teased with the bar flap going up and down and the chandelier shaking. These were in jokes for this in crowd and if you had no knowledge of the history of Only Fools and Horses then you may have wondered what this was all about.
Co-writer Paul Sullivan gives a good turn as Granddad, as well as an Uncle Albert cameo; Tom Bennett’s Del Boy does the great man proud, but it was Oscar Conlon-Morrey who would have stole the show in his minuscule roles of Dating Agent and Waiter if he’d been given more time in the spotlight. He did, though, make the most of his parts and got a big cheer at the end that showed our appreciation of his involvement and input.
There were new songs to add to the classic theme tune, mainly written by the writers Jim Sullivan and Paul Whitehouse, with Bit of a Sort being the stand out number of the show, and the one that introduced us to Oscar Conlon-Morrey. Chas Hodges also had a hand in creating the music for this modern classic.
No, you won’t see the theatre elite kneesing up to the Chas & Dave songs here, but the world of theatre is a better place for it.
Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street, SW1Y 4HT until August 2019. Times: Mon – Sat 7.30pm. Wed & Sat matinees 2.30pm. Admission: £20 – £125. Phone: 020 7930 8800
Credit: Johan Persson