TITLE: Last of the Summer Wine: The Moonbather
VENUE: St George’s Hall, Bradford
REVIEW: Neil Atkinson
THANK goodness for Roy Clarke!
The comic genius behind such hits as Keeping Up Appearances and Open All Hours has done it again.
Clarke, 79, has penned the new stage version of Last Of The Summer Wine - the world’s longest-running TV comedy that has been his baby since 1972.
His stunning script ensures the transition from 30-minute TV sitcom to an 80-minute stage show is, if not a triumph, at least an enjoyable romp.
The Moonbather, which runs at St George’s Hall, Bradford, until Saturday, thankfully focuses on the trio who have dominated Wine - Compo, Clegg and Foggy.
The lines they have been given by Clarke carry the show; the quirky one-liners and the pithy putdowns are a joy.
It was always going to be difficult to put Wine on stage as one of the highlights of the TV show is the spectacular scenery around Holmfirth, which cannot be recreated on stage.
But credit the production team who do their best with scenes in Clegg’s front parlour, outside Nora Batty’s famous front door and alongside a drystone wall.
John Pennington (Foggy) is excellent as the former "jungle warrior" who is seeking love in the shape of Samantha (Gillian Axtell).
His memories of being a killing machine are hilarious.
"The natives called me Man With No Shadow. They want me to be their chief but I thought about my stamps; you can’t collect stamps in the jungle, they curl up at the edges in the heat."
Timothy Kightley also excels in a difficult task – filling the shoes of Norman Clegg, who has been played ever since the TV series started by the excellent Peter Sallis.
Harry Dickman completes the triumvirate of misfits as Compo Simonite and he is competent in the role, especially with his ad libs to the audience.
The best known face in the show is that of Ruth Madoc, the actress who starred as Gladys in Hi De Hi.
She is the brash, outspoken female lead determined to prove "man as a second species".
But she, like the others, have cause to be grateful to Clarke for his writing. He has risen to the task superbly.