Stop Messing About takes it name from a catchphrase Kenneth Williams used in his cabaret shows and was the title of a popular radio show in the mid 1960s until the 1970s of which Williams was the star along with Joan Simms of the Carry On films fame and Hugh Paddick, a long time friend and previous colleague of Williams.
This production is the follow up to the successful Round the Horne…Revisited and harks back to a nostalgic time in comedy, filled with satire, double entendre and film parodies.
Undoubtedly this was a very successful radio show and translates well on stage with the performers coming to the microphones at the front of the stage to play out the sketches with the help of the fantastically droll BBC announcer, Douglas Smith (Charles Armstrong) and the ever-present sound operator (Timothy Dodd). Liz Cooke's set is a fantastic replication of a 1960s radio studio and the flashing applause signs really help to set the scene and encourage audience participation.
Robin Sebastian captures Williams in a way that is at times, quite uncanny. His twitching, winking, lip licking and nostril flaring is very reminiscent of Kenneth Williams and vocally, he is superb. He really does capture the essence of Williams and demonstrates great quick wit, rapidly picking up on the somewhat humorous laugh of a female member of the audience and incorporating it in to the performance to great success.
Nigel Harrison demonstrates strong vocal skills performing a myriad of accents and vocal styles that have the audience chortling with delight. India Fisher is the most disappointing as although an accomplished performer, for me fails to capture the essence of Joan Sims and does not replicate her vocal style successfully.
However, this production fails to raise deep laughter from the audience until Act 2. Although well received. the audience are not rolling in the aisles as one might expect, with more respectful chuckling than deep belly laughs. Some of Williams’ most famous quotes from the Carry On films get some of the biggest laughs but at times the material feels too dated and old fashioned and lacks sparkle and at times, Sebastian is sometimes a little too restrained as Williams who often took off to the extreme due to his complex personality however there was no hint of this in this performance.
Entertaining yes, although perhaps not the comedy hit one might expect from a show subtitled a Kenneth Williams Extravaganza.