David Graham’s Keeping Up Appearances continues the recent trend of staged comedy reruns. Written by original creator Roy Clarke and featuring Gareth Hale of Hale and Pace, The Comedy Theatre’s production comes from the “good breeding”, which the Lady of the House so respected. Sadly, the pedigree is lamentably inbred.
It’s a typical plot. Neighbour Emmet directs a play, Hyacinth casts herself as an aristocrat and Elizabeth smashes something. There’s nothing new here. Even Malvern Hostick’s stage design looks loathed to be there, marked by tedious, minute long blackout scene changes.
Rachel Bell’s perfectly prim Hyacinth is a perfect impression and Brookside’s Steven Pinder surpasses the original Emmet in likeability. Gareth Hale and Christine Moore’s Onslow and Daisy are a wonderful homage to the characters and top an excellent cast betrayed by a tiresome script. Although frequently alluded to offstage, Hyacinth’s long suffering husband Richard is nowhere to be seen, an omission as sensible as Royal Doulton without the hand painted periwinkle.
It is hardly fair to view Keeping Up Appearances through the more sophisticated, observational filter of modern comedy. The laboriously predictable punchlines may be seen as far off as the sitcom’s original air-date but, like Frank Kershaw’s pastel costuming, the production is distinctly of its era and should only be treated as such: a camp romp that, of the original sitcom but will leave modern audiences largely unamused and declining the invitation to the candlelit supper.