A TALENTED All and Sundry cast put on a breath-taking performance of Blackadder Goes Forth at Bromsgrove’s Artrix.
The poignant production, set in the trenches of the First World War, was chosen by the group to mark the centenary year of the conflict in which millions of people were killed.
And the show was perfectly produced by Mike Richardson and assistant Vanessa Morgan, so much so that during the sombre scenes, you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium.
The first rule of comedy – as any writer will tell you – is that you always have a happy ending for your main characters.
But Blackadder Goes Forth bucks that trend and to great effect – it could not have been more powerful.
The main characters – Blackadder, Baldrick, George and Darling – were massacred in the final scene and the way this was done would have had even the hardest of audiences filling up.
A screen came down and the four fallen soldiers were silhouetted against a white background as they met their fate.
Almost straight after, the screen changed to show a field of red poppies and the famous In Flanders Field was read aloud.
After those words were read, the curtains closed and the lights came up with no usual walkdown for the audience to thank the cast.
But, the front of house was used tremendously by the group – as the croed filed towards the door, the characters were there stood to attention in the foyer and, rightfully, received a standing ovation.
The show illustrated the fear which must have been felt by those fighting the First World War and some of the scary situations that must have arose between 1914 and 1918.
But, despite the poignancy and power of this production, there was plenty of laughter-filled moments as well.
Among the highlights were when Blackadder shot Melchett’s prize pigeon Speckled Jim which brought plenty of hilarity, along with a court martial for the main character. Another was when Blackadder met the firing squad which was due to kill him the following morning and the arrival of Lord Flasheart.
There were solid performances on the night by Graham Forbes as the arrogant Melchett and Emma Hay as the bungling Baldrick.
Alan Feeney was perfectly posh as the (excuse the pun) over the top George and Mark Clayton was superbly and suitably sarcastic as Blackadder.
But the performance of the evening was by Nick Whitehouse as randy RAF pilot Lord Flasheart, a part played in the hit sitcom by late legend Rik Mayall.
The tales of his antics with various women were real laugh out loud moments, so much so you could have watched him on stage all night long.
To put on a production of Blackadder Goes Forth in the centenary of the First World War was a master stroke by All and sundry which had to make a personal request to Richard Curtis so they could put together this stunning stage version of the TV script.
And it was a truly amazing and beautifully adapted piece of theatre which brought tears of laughter and sadness in equal measure.