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Stop Messing About at Dartford theatre

Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams
Robin Sebastian as Kenneth Williams

I can only think the gaps in the audience for Stop Messing About at Dartford's The Orchard theatre had a lot to do with the vintage of the original. It certainly wasn't down to a lack of talent on stage.

Not that you have to be of a certain age to appreciate this comedy master class in quips, witty one-liners and wordplay.

It is quick-fire and relentless and the only surprise to me was there was no joke about an innuendo being an Italian suppository!

At the head of affairs for the 1970 radio series was the outrageous Kenneth Williams, all tip-tilted nose, gaping nostrils and fruity voice - a complex, preening one-off who became a national favourite.

Irrepressible Robin Sebastian is something of a veteran of the role, having also appeared in Round The Horne Revisited and Unseen and Uncut, and has perfected all of those characteristics, right down to the braying laugh, nasal tones and camp shimmy.

Nigel Harrison and India Fisher slip effortlessly into the roles Williams's sidekicks Hugh Paddick and Joan Sims.

Aided by Charles Armstrong as BBC announcer Douglas Smith and Timothy Dodd in charge of sound effects, clutching scripts the trio move from mike to mike using a range of accents.

The set is simple and effective. The aim is to recreate the atmosphere of the radio show of the same name in the recording studio, right down to the applause signs.

Some of the jokes are corny beyond belief and some verge on the smutty, but are never offensive.

In a Gone With the Wind sketch, the Confederates are told: "It's up to everybody to go out there and get himself a Yank." Then there's the tale of how seaman Clint "took me down below".

Sebastian was particularly impressed that some of the audience got his joke about a tattoo looking like a starfish. Huh?

Perhaps the most recognisable line, delivered with typical Williams gusto, actually comes from a Carry on film: "Infamy, infamy...they've all got it in for me."

They say nostalgia is not what it used to be but it was very much alive and kicking in this show.

For details of other shows at The Orchard visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk

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