Oh No It Isn’t! – Bickering Dames On Stage & Off

Friday 21st June 2019 at Harrogate Theatre (Studio).

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We’re all fascinated by the backstage scene – we want to know about the hilarious shenanigans, the gripes and the bust-ups. Oh No It Isn’t! looks at both the scenes on stage and back stage, switching between the two for some fantastic quick-time comedy which bursts the bubble of the perfected stage act and replaces it with the polluted airspace of a dressing room housing two bickering actors…

Directors Kennedy Bloomer and Toby Hampton are hell-bent on pace here and it pays off – there’s never a moment lost and our cast never miss a beat (well, at least not unintentionally). ‘On stage’, our pair of actors are great panto dames playing the last show of the season in a production of Cinderella. They nail the hysteria and theatricality of the characters, work the audience for big laughs and pitch various classic panto quips before gleefully watching them land with a laugh or a thud. Backstage is another story.

Luke Adamson and Robbie Capaldi are Mr Worth and Mr Chancery – both in the panto game for a while, both aspiring actors but one of them reaching early heights the other only dreams of. The conflicts extend to their very perceptions of the panto world; one dismissive, one reverent. And love affairs; one the lethario of any production and the other a wallower. It’s an entertainingly tense dressing room and both Adamson and Capaldi are great.

Capaldi’s Chancery is the perpetual casual chancer – nothing really phases. He enjoys ruffling Worth’s feathers but backs towards the exit when Adamson’s character shows in no uncertain terms that today is not the day to be messing with him. Adamson impresses with a melancholic angst backstage and a glorious on stage persona which beautifully conjures a primary school teacher at Christmastime…who is slightly under the influence and overloaded with sugar. On stage it’s Worth who shines as the pro and takes the lead, monopolising the limelight to make Chancery the sidekick rather than the equal and letting his love of the art form guide a stellar performance. Backstage means back to reality though, where it’s another story.

Yet it’s not as simple as watching two acting rivals snipe at each other, it’s funnier than that because the pair are all over the shop – one minute causing flare ups and the next musing on past productions and faves. They’re pally as swiftly as they’re at loggerheads and in turn, they are just as swift in their sudden burst into the artifice of the stage. 

Adamson’s writing is punchy and witty with a clear affection for  physical humour as much as the witty quip. The physical and the visual get some great glorification here with cast and creatives giving slapstick its due and Mark Walters’ costumes providing some great comedy fodder. Possibly unintentionally but comic nonetheless is the way in which Adamson’s make-up (Imogen Longman) gradually takes him from sharply painted professional actor to melting Smurf across the performance while Capaldi remains pristine, a perfect reflection of the dynamics at play too. 

Adamson’s writing also allows for some sentiment, inspiring pity for Mr Worth who has some personal issues at play – things which begin to have an impact on his performance and lead to dramatic and tragi-comic consequences. In doing so, Adamson achieves a poignant finish to a great comedy as he brings together his talents as both writer and performer to show us the harsh reality of life as an aspiring actor. As Oh No It Isn’t shows us, there are many highs and lows in the lives of those who live in two realms side by side!

Oh No It Isn’t! is presented by LKT Productions and is most definitely not suitable for children. The tour is now over but I do absolutely recommend keeping up with this company and cast – Twitter: @LKTProductions.

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