The British comedy series Steptoe and Son consisted of four series with a total of fifty-seven episodes. Written by Ray Carlton and Alan Simpson, it told the story of a father and son working in a rag-and-bone business: Albert Steptoe and his son, Harold. Fans of the series watched the intergenerational conflict between the “dirty old man” and his try-hard son, with his aspirations of a better life. More often than not, the audience would be left feeling somewhat sorry for poor Harold, but left laughing at the cunning of his father.
Following the success of a previous season of Steptoe and Son in 2015, The 1812 Theatre have chosen to bring another three episodes to the stage, with both Keith Hutton and Ed Kennett reprising their acclaimed roles as Albert and Harold respectively.
Paying incredible attention to detail, the scene is set upon arrival into the 1812 Theatre foyer, with an assortment of old “junk” scattered throughout. The look is perfectly enhanced by the current lack of carpet in the foyer, due to recent flooding! The detail continues on stage, with an elaborate set design by Neil Barnett that creates two distinct performance spaces.
The opening episode, entitled ‘The Stepmother’ is taken from the second series of this British sitcom. Without the benefit of previous episodes setting the scene for the audience, the story is initially somewhat confronting, with more gasps than laughs as Harold effectively engages in elder abuse. Thanks to clever writing, skilled direction and excellent acting, any concerns are soon replaced with laughter and the tone of the episode changes, effectively portraying the balance of love and conflict in this interdependent father-son relationship.
‘The Stepmother’ segues nicely into the next episode ‘Two’s Company’, from the sixth season of Steptoe and Son, highlighting the challenge facing both men if one was to leave the other. The third episode, presented after interval, is entitled ‘The Bath’ and allows the audience to see the very “cheeky” side of Albert Steptoe.
Keith Hutton is brilliant in the role of Albert Steptoe. He has perfected the mannerisms and traits of his character and audience members familiar with the series will be instantly taken back a few decades. Hutton conveys the mischief and conniving behaviour with the right amount of warmth and fun that endears his character to the audience.
In the role of Harold Steptoe. Ed Kennett gives a strong performance and there is enough likeability and reason for the audience to feel sorry for him. Ann Quinn, Susie Sparkes and Rosey Cullinan all play suitable love interests to either father or son, with Steve Hobbs rounding out the supporting cast.
Experienced director Christine Grant has delivered an entertaining night of theatre and fans of the television series will be delighted to see the staging of another three episodes of this classic British sitcom.