Steptoe and Son (Tour - Northampton)
Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H Corbett made their characters of Albert and Harold so iconic that it’s a wise decision to move away from them entirely. Thus Mike Shepherd’s wiry, agile Albert and Dean Nolan’s vast but nimble Harold share little more than the lines with their TV counterparts in what amounts to a series of duologues interspersed with Kneehigh’s trademark knockabout comedy.
The fact that most of the laughs come from the inserted new business reflects significantly on the scripts, which seem slow, dated and (dare I say it?) a little pedestrian. Rice throws in an additional figure, an unnamed woman, who frames the episodes with some period outfits and LPs as well as the occasional walk-on role, but essentially it’s a two-hander, ably and confidently delivered by Shepherd and Nolan.
There’s some poignant pondering on the nature of loneliness – each of the pair suffers in their own way – and on the inextricable, trapping ties between father and son, but in the end it’s an oddly unsatisfying mash-up that serves neither to reinvigorate the original nor to mint a fresh new version for the 21st Century.