There are some television shows that transfer to stage very well with recent examples being Dad’s Army, Allo Allo, and Dinnerladies. However, there are other television shows that should stay just that and Porridge is one of them. It’s unfortunate perhaps, but it really doesn’t work as a live performance.
The premise should be well known to fans. Fletcher, played ably by Mark Pearce, is a habitual criminal who is more often than not behind bars. His cell mate Godber is a young Brummie with designs on going straight after release. The plot simply charts their time in prison along with other prisoners and prison officers. I use the term plot in the loosest of senses though, as not a lot really happens. The writers appear to have taken all the best jokes from the three original series and cobbled them together rather badly and whilst some of the jokes really are very amusing indeed, most are delivered so poorly that any humour is immediately lost.
Overall the cast are less than impressive particularly Ryan Winston who, as the angry McLaren is as wooden as a fence with a truly abysmal Scottish accent. Daniel West as Godber, is also hugely disappointing putting in a very reserved and quiet performance. I can’t help feeling his casting might have been somewhat influenced by his resemblance to Richard Beckinsale who famously played the role in the original television show. Of the supporting cast all I can say is that the majority look bored to tears from start to finish.
However, on the plus side Nicholas Lumley is terrific as prison officer MacKay and Richard Tate as oldest prisoner Blanco is amusingly eccentric. Hayden Oakley as another young prisoner Bunny Warren also manages to rise above the mediocre and is quite charming in his innocence.
The set by Paul Wills is effective enough in representing a prison in the 1970’s and the lighting by Bob Bunstance lights the stage well. Original music by James Jones often sounds out of place and overall the production is rather poorly directed by Gavin McAlinden who has allowed set changes to be slow and awkward which only serves to give the evening a feeling of being very laboured.
The month long stop at the Lowry marks the middle of an eight month tour. I can only hope the new year will bring fresh vigour to a production that after only four months on the road is already looking rather sad and tired.