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24 September 2014

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First night... 11.02.05

Mark ShentonBreak out the Marigolds - it's Acorn Antiques! But our critic Mark Shenton is non-plussed by this musical version of the TV spoof, not least by the high prices being charged...

What next? Will it be Little Britain's Fat Fighters - the Musical?

The dangers of translating a well-loved TV spoof into another medium are obvious. Not only are you relying on an affection and memory that in the case of Acorn Antiques goes back 20 years to its first sighting as part of Victoria Wood's As Seen on TV sketch show.

"In trying to be a cross between Crossroads and The Producers, it doesn't become about the making of bad theatre but a piece of bad theatre itself..."

But also what was, in essence, a one-joke idea - revolving around the wobbly sets and forgotten lines that the panicked actors of a deliberately terrible TV soap had to contend with.

And however warmly you remember it - and I'm one that most certainly does - Acorn Antiques is desperately over-extended here into a musical that hits the three-hour mark.

A musical? Oh yes. Now, not only does it spoof TV soaps, it also spoofs musicals themselves.

But in trying to be a backstage cross between Crossroads and The Producers, it unfortunately doesn't become about the making of bad theatre but a piece of bad theatre itself.

Filled out with weak pastiches of musicals from Les Mis and Company to A Chorus Line, it follows a musical version of the TV soap in rehearsal and then into production.

guffaws of recognition

Since the TV soap of the title has long been unceremoniously axed, unable to compete with Celebrity Breast Implants Gone Wrong, the principals - led by the inimitable Julie Walters and also including Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston from the original sketch show - have been reunited here to turn it into a musical at the Enoch Powell Arts Centre in Sutton Coldfield.

Julie Walters
Inimitable...Julie Walters in Acorn Antiques

Early on, as Julie Walters arrives for rehearsals to play Mrs Overall, unopened and unread script in her handbag, she declares, "I'm going to need scissors."

If only this show's director, Trevor Nunn, had brought some shears to rehearsals, too.

There are some compensating pleasures in the performances, though.

Just the sight of Julie Walters shuffling onto the stage as the perpetually stooped and crumpled Mrs Overall - tea tray in hand with macaroons at the ready - is enough to induce guffaws of recognition, not to mention worries about her osteopath's bill.

Perhaps in order to help pay for that bill, audiences are being expected to cough up the highest prices ever for a West End show (£65 for the best weekend tickets, which is more expensive than Broadway; even restricted view seats go at £37.50).

You'd be far better off with the omnibus DVD that's just been released and collects all the Acorn editions into one place for just £15.99.

Booking to:
12 March at the Haymarket Theatre Royal. Box office: 020 7930 8800 Web: Theatre Royal Haymarket (The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites)

Agree or disagree with our review? Add your thoughts below:

Acorn Antiques: as funny as you hoped or not? And would you pay the top price for a seat? Tell us...
Your name:
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Mark Roberts
Very strange how the Musical was a sell out, tickets were being sold for £300 on open markets. Itwas a great Achievement to have been able to gather Julie, Victoria Celia, Josie Duncan, in one show, as they ae all talented & well in demand, & wonderful to eep the concept & deserved iconic status of Acorn Antiques after so many years. The Audience were in hysterics, the atmostphere was hilarious, but you have to have been an avid fan to know the concept had been taken onwards. Sure go watch the dvd of the originals, buy the show dvd now also, but really to say when every seat is sold out, you couldnt ask more in theatre in London. If it was bad people would not have gone...some several times! The only bad aspect of the review, was the patronising perception of the author, who feels he resresents any view that any of will be remotely interested in, or ake any notice of. He's obviuosly well out touch with Public Opinion, & indeed this Classic British Comedy success, with a cult following.

Jason Ham
I have brought the DVD and think that although the musical isn't the greatest, it is enjoyable and provides a good evenings entertainment. A way to improve it? change the script COMPLETELY, or delete act 1... a waste of time, and I thought about taking the DVD back.

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