Are You Being Served?

Presented by Adelaide Repertory Theatre Society
Reviewed Friday 1st April 2011

Venue: ARTS Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm Sat 2nd and Thurs 6th to Sat 9th, 2pm Sat 9th April 2011
Duration: 2hrs 10mins incl interval
Tickets: adults $20/conc 15
Bookings: 8212 5777 or BASS 131 246 or booking fees apply

Based on the television series, and written by the same writers, Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, this should have been a laugh a minute. The potential is there. All it needs is some good, strong direction to speed up the pace and tighten up the characterisations, plus a shot of adrenalin to lift the energy levels. A little revision of their lines by one or two of the cast would also help. There is a good show here waiting to happen, but it was not yet there tonight.

The first act is set in the Grace Brothers Department Store, where renovations are needed and, as the store will be closed for two weeks, the staff are preparing for a company paid holiday in a one star hotel in Spain. The second act is set at the Spanish hotel, where their rooms are not ready and other arrangements have to be made. The play was made into a film in 1977 but, although the play had been a success and the television series was very popular, running for 13 years from 1972 to 1985, the film received poor reviews.

With such a well-known television show, audiences will, no doubt, expect the cast to look, sound and act as closely as possible to the originals, and there is an attempt to do that in this production, with reasonable results. Sue Wylie, as Mrs. Slocombe, and John Matsen, as Mr. Grainger, are consistent and accurate in their characterisations and maintain a good pace, and they do all that they can to help the rest of the cast keep up, but director, Ian Maitland, seems to have run out of both steam and ideas, leaving his cast floundering.

The others hit their characters some of the time, but were inconsistent. When they did connect with their characters they were generally good, but lack of direction and a feeling of being under-rehearsed prevailed. Georgia Dodd, as Miss Brahms, had some excellent moments, as did Rob Parnell, as Mr Humphries. The others also provided some fine support, but that consistency that this production needs was not there.

The sets, designed by Maitland, also varied in quality. The tents lined up in a row, for Act 2, were convincing enough, but the Act 1 set, the department store with which most of us would be very familiar, seemed rather bare and could have used a lot more set dressing

One can only hope that, by the second week, the pace will have increased dramatically and lines will be flowing a lot faster, with the benefit of the few extra performances.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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