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Arthur and George (Birmingham Rep)

Hi-de-Hi! (tour)

By • Southeast
WOS Rating:
It was one of the television success stories of the 1980s and had an after-life as a stage show. Now the world of the 1950s holiday camp workers so gently satirised by Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s scripts for Hi-de-Hi! has been disinterred in the Paul Carpenter and Ian Gower adaptation just launched on a national tour.

The result is an odd sort of hybrid. The story of has-beens and wanna-bes wraps itself around songs of the period, memories of music-hall traditions fast receding into nostalgia and a sequence of well-presented cameo performances. A sense of relentless fun (“have a good time – or else!”) projects itself from stage to audience throughout.

Abigail Finley is excellent as chalet-maid Peggy, dreaming that one day she too might wear a yellow coat and step on the stairway to stardom. She puts over her two big numbers splendidly. Rebecca Bainbridge plays Gladys Pugh, the chief yellow-coat with ambitions, and revels in the part as Gladys manoeuvres though staff arguments and keeps more than her eye on the hapless new entertainments manager Jeffrey.

As Jeffrey, the displaced Cambridge don, Peter Amory is at times the one person on stage who seems to be playing his part straight. The two resident comics are Damien Williams as the loud-suited loud-mouthed Ted Bovis and Ben Roddy as his sidekick Spike (still very much learning on the job). Barry Howard and Nikki Kelly are the ballroom-dancing duo, clutching on to the sequins and patent leather of a fading era.

There’s an excellent set from Charles Camm with a bandstand (populated by Tom Carradine, Dan Hall and Tom Early) at the back and various settings to indicate offices, staff rooms or chalets trucked on as required. Director Bruce James has threaded narrative, re-creation of the original performances and individual “acts’ together very competently. But it still doesn’t add up to a unified whole.

(reviewed at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage)


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