Review: Blackadder II, at The People's Theatre: a cunning plan to take the stage?

Katie Siddall reviews a magnificent local take on a comedy classic.

Katie Siddall
11th October 2021
Credit: People's Theatre
Richard Curtis and Ben Elton’s blooming baby, Lord Edmund Blackadder, was brought to life last Thursday 7th October by Matthew Hope, who adapted the BBC script to fit with the times. Though keeping to the Elizabethan England that we all love, the occasional contemporary COVID-19 joke made a joyful appearance.

The production oversaw three of the loving episodes that Rowan Atkinson, a Newcastle University Alumni, brought to life in the 1980’s. The three episodes that the cast focussed on, in order, were: Heads (the episode where Edmund is awarded Lord High Executioner), Bells (where Edmund gets engaged to the gorgeous Bob) and Beer (that famous episode where Miriam Margoyles slaps Rowan Atkinson over and over and over again).

Now… I can guess what you’re thinking – is it still good without Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Tim McInnerny and, of course, Tony Robinson? Well… I’m here to tell you that it is, although whether you think the £15 a ticket is worth it is a matter of personal opinion.

The People’s Theatre, itself, is very compact, and sitting in the second row gave the impression of almost being on stage, immersed in Elizabethan England and getting told I was “Merlin, the Happy Pig”. The set was beautifully decorated allowing the same space to look majestic for Queenie, yet revolting for the jail, woods and poor house that Blackadder, and others, would find themselves in.

Sitting in the second row gave the impression of almost being on stage, immersed in Elizabethan England and getting told I was “Merlin, the Happy Pig”

Edmund Blackadder, Blackadder II

The mannerisms portrayed by Sam Hinton, as Blackadder, were astonishing due to the fact they closely resembled that of Atkinson. His body language and his language intonations were on cue- from my memory of Atkinson’s portrayal. The same could be said for that of Tony Sehgal’s performance of Baldrick – his shabby, cunning and disgusting character was close to the depiction of Baldrick played by Robinson.

The cast should all be amazed with their performances; however, “woof”-ing his way onto stage was the great Jake Wilson Craw, certainly one to look out for! His incredible loud-mouth character, Lord Flashheart, did not only steal Bob’s heart but the audience’s hearts too.

Aside from the main characters, we cannot forget the likes of the minstrel who Hope even brought to life. The amazing songs that run through the credits of the BBC series were sang, in the People’s Theatre production, by Craig Fairburn, who charismatically executed the beautiful pieces. This was a splendid job well done AND a fantastic directorial choice. Having performed three episodes of Blackadder II, it was refreshing to have the minstrel break down each of the episodes.

Overall, I cannot fault this performance of Richard Curtis and Ben Elton’s, still blooming baby, Blackadder II because the chosen actors were the best choice for such iconic characters. Yes, we can all agree that no one can beat Atkinson, Fry or Miranda Richardson; however, we can also all agree that “the Devil farts in [our] face[s] once again” and has given us something wonderful to watch.

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