Ella Al-Khalil Coyle’s adaptation of the acclaimed TV series captures the essence of Miranda perfectly, retelling the main storylines of Season 1 of the sitcom. Within seconds, the audience is transported back into the haphazard joke shop, reminding us of our favourite scenes and unforgotten storylines. The interactions between Miranda (Anna Pycock) and Gary (Peter Firbank) were particular favourites amongst the audience, with Al-Khalil Coyle’s writing truly reminding us why we love and root for the couple throughout the show. Another popular scene of the night featured Dreamboat Charlie (Olly Stanton), and left the audience in both rapturous applause and laughter – I don’t think a single audience member left the Assembly Rooms without a smile on their face. I only wish we could have seen some original storylines within the production to complement those well-known, quotable scenes, with Al-Khalil Coyle’s lockdown sketches rivalling that of the original sitcom’s.
The utilisation of music throughout, from the iconic theme tune to a nostalgic sequence of 00s hits, creates just the right reminder of the production’s source material. Credit must be given to the talented band – otherwise known as “the Fruit Harmonics” – and Musical Director, Ollie Fabb, for producing such arrangements on a small scale. Recreating a sitcom was always going to be a challenge, however Set Designer Anna Hayward went above and beyond: the use of multiple platforms to quickly shift between Miranda’s bedroom, to the shop, to the café, was thoughtful and effective, with seamless transitions to transform the set throughout.
The use of tech is also innovative, championed by Rhiannon Morgan and Dylan Bunyan, with monitors highlighting flashback scenes and photos in the style of the sitcom. With such a show, it could be tempting to simplify the use of lights, however this is wholly utilised by James Goodall, with everything from colourful musical interludes to cleverly timed blackouts. Sound design is nothing short of clever, and I thoroughly enjoyed the use of character voiceovers throughout (including a hilarious start to the show!).
As the titular character, Anna Pycock’s comedic timing is second to none. She truly commands the stage for the duration of the show, with all the stamina, excitement, and chaotic energy of the TV series. Frequently breaking the fourth wall and adding impeccable improv, Pycock plays to the audience with such sincerity that we truly leave the theatre in love with the character. One of the limitations of stage as opposed to screen was that we weren’t always able to appreciate these moments, and I would have liked to see these pauses exaggerated more, as occasionally the rather brief asides were missed by the audience. Nonetheless, following last night’s performance, it is hard to imagine anyone else playing Miranda herself.
Where the heart of the show lies, however, is in the fantastic quality of its ensemble. It is – indeed – “such fun”, to watch a cast who were clearly enjoying themselves as much as the audience. One must commend Ella Al-Khalil Coyle and Lauren Brewer for the excellent casting and direction of the show, with every character embodying the essence of their TV counterpart while making the role their own. The amount of work that has been put into the chemistry between characters is evident, whether it’s Miranda and Stevie (Zara Stokes Neustadt) or Tilly and Fanny (Emily Phillips & Siobhan Gardiner).
One standout of the night was Julia Kennerly as Miranda’s overbearing mother, Penny, recreating some of the character’s most iconic anecdotes from the show. Her sharp, witty lines were delivered with confidence and just the right amount of attitude, and I can’t wait to see what she does next on the DST stage. Clive, played by Jacob Vellucci, was another unanimous favourite with the audience, with just the right charm and sass to keep them wanting more. A special mention must also be given to the brilliant multi-rollers, Becca Duckworth, Joe Rossiter, and Olly Stanton – it is difficult to believe they were playing more than one role when they embodied each character so perfectly.
It is impossible to discuss this show in more depth without looking at the fantastic publicity campaigns ‘Ooook!’ has produced over the last two years since its inception, from lockdown sketches in November 2020 to a cameo from Sally Phillips (Tilly in the original BBC sitcom) on social media. Despite the show’s many delays, Sophie Tice, Harriet Brown, and Evie Campbell have done a brilliant job ensuring we “Never Forget” it (and it was certainly worth the wait!).
Overall, the cast and crew have created a true piece of theatrical joy and I only wish I could stick around for a Season 2 sequel. Don’t leave Durham without catching a slice of Ooook!’s Miranda this Christmas – you won’t be disappointed.
Image: Ooook! Productions