The Acting Factory/Henry Lawson Theatre: Steptoe and Son review by Daniel Conway
The thing about comedy that I love is that it becomes a time capsule in which we can reflect what our values were at a point in time. What we choose to joke about and how is something that makes comedy feel fixed at a place and time. The Acting Factory and Henry Lawson Theatre's performance of the classic British Sitcom Steptoe and Son is no different. I will preface that I think that there were more than a few jokes that have not aged well and because this is not content I was ever familiar with I found it hard to connect with. What I can talk about is the craft on stage and how the theatre was brought to life.
The first things you notice is the stage. The play space and been expertly transformed into a mid-century working class English terrace, which I can only assume is a loving recreation of the set from the show. I loved the attention to detail, from the clever placement of doors to use the backstage as a hallway to the random set pieces to create this scrapyard feel (particularly the toilet on its side on a roof. The set really captures a feel that the audience needs to provide context to the show. The director Robin Queeree used space really well with the use of the aisle as the actors entrance and exit creating a clear separation between the inside and outside of the action.
Queeree pulls double duty as director and lead actor. Playing the titular senior Steptoe. Queeree has a great physicality that is a joy to watch. He is clearly enjoying himself and has a love for the material. He is totally committed to the part and really tries to create some lovely moments between him and his son. The second in this duo is Scott Clarke as the Son in Steptoe and Son. Harold is charming kind and a bit dim and Clarke's performance really tried to capture this. They are joined by the two man ensemble of Graham Fairbrother and John Bell. These gentleman provided fantastic foils for the comedy on stage. Each had a moment to shine, Fairbrothers' drunk tax man and Bells' dancing milkman stood out in my mind.
With all performances there are highs and lows. Some of the timing in the dialogue felt off or slow, but opening night means that things are still settling in. The biggest issue I had was with the transitions between scenes. I am not sure why some transitions took as long as they did. I am a big believer that if a prop can be carried on by an actor it should be and that transitions should be short and sharp to set the pace. There were times were the atmosphere was undone by the length of time between transitions, This was particularly noticeable in scenes where no real change happened on stage or in costume. Everyone in the production is doing their best and aside from my criticism above I believe that this is a good representation of community theatre, a group of passionate people putting on a show they believe in and for that I can't fault them. While this show is not my cup of tea in terms of content, If you have memories of the show or love classic Brit-coms of that ilk you will have a wonderful time, as many in the audience did.
I give this show 2.75 rude games of scrabble out of 5.