By Adam Hope
Ooook! Productions continue their ‘Summer Sitcoms’ series with a stage adaptation of Blackadder the Third. All four Blackadder series regularly place highly in lists of the best British comedies, so the Durham production has a lot to live up to. Palatinate asks the cast and crew how they’ve been preparing for their production, and what they hope audiences will take from it.
On deciding what to stage in the first place, director Anna Haines thinks the show is “a classic – perfect for a light-hearted summer show after exams,” drawing on Ooook! Productions’ “history of putting on fun, much-loved shows.” Max Lindon (Turnip Boy) reveals that the show is less an adaptation, more an amalgamation, as the cast have “taken our favourite 3 episodes from the series and are running them back to back to back.” To that, Haines has “added some funny self-aware moments,” and the result is sure to offer something for fans of stage and screen alike.
Durham’s Blackadder fans will doubtless be aware that Rowan Atkinson, the original Blackadder, is local to County Durham, and may be questioning the production’s ability to realise his legacy. “I hope I can do you all justice” is the reply of Tyler Rainford (Blackadder), however, he also warns audiences against expecting total accuracy: “If you’re looking for a perfect imitation of the TV show just watch the TV show.” Kitty Briggs (Mrs Miggins), and Haines respect Atkinson’s legacy, but are of the opinion that the play offers “more character development for minor characters’ than the original, giving more room for Durham’s young actors to ‘develop their own comic voice and style.”
In common with the original series, Ooook! have not tried to make their production too contemporary – Rainford insists the cast are “not trying to make a point,” and suggests audiences “just enjoy the bloody show.” He sees the play simply as ‘classic British comedy’, with Patrick Palmer (Wellington/Ivor Biggun) making the excellent point that “turnip innuendo is timeless.” Mikey Bicarregui (McAdder/ Lord Byron) takes a different view. As he puts it, “politics is still a farcical fucking mess,” and whether Theresa May is doing as good a job as Mad King George III is something all of us should surely be pondering.
The cast takes a playful attitude to the appeal of their production to audiences. Bicarregui shows great faith in Blackadder’s merits by noting they are “offering discounted prices to Durham students,” while Matt Elliot-Ripley (Talbot/Mad King George III), believes the audience will “be posh nobs like George so they’ll relate to it.” For the less noble among us, Luke Titmuss (Johnson/Hanna) expects us to discover we are not the Blackadder of our imaginations, but instead “a strange product of the love-child of Prince George and Baldrick, so there’s something for everyone.” Quite how this will manifest itself during performances is something I can only imagine.
The final word on what audiences can expect from this production must surely be left to Blackadder himself, Tyler Rainford, who assures that all who attend can be sure of “dank memes.” The cast has clearly had fun preparing for Blackadder the Third, and one can only hope audiences will be similarly entertained.
‘Blackadder the Third’ will be performed in the Assembly Rooms from Wednesday, 21st June until Friday, 23rd June at 19:30. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Katie O’Toole