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Review: Steptoe and Son, Sheppey Little Theatre

"Har-old!" The familiar cry from the veteran TV show Steptoe and Son rang out again at the Sheppey Little Theatre on Saturday.

Familiar, of course, if you happen to be old enough to remember the Galton and Simpson comedy which kept Britain amused for 58 episodes from January 4, 1962, when it was first broadcast in black and white.

Jeremy Smith as Albert and John Hewer as Harold in Hambledon Productions' version of the Galton and Simpson comedy Steptoe and Son at the Sheppey Little Theatre, Sheerness. Picture: Jack Lovett
Jeremy Smith as Albert and John Hewer as Harold in Hambledon Productions' version of the Galton and Simpson comedy Steptoe and Son at the Sheppey Little Theatre, Sheerness. Picture: Jack Lovett

Hambledon Productions has exclusive rights to recreate the show for the stage. Saturday was the final outing of the current tour.

Christmas In Oil Drum Lane was based on four episodes from the TV hit and adapted by John Hewer who played Harold at the tiny theatre in Meyrick Road, Sheerness.

He captured original actor Harry H Corbett's mannerisms perfectly although his fresh-looking face (not his fault) was a little out of place at first. But it was Jeremy Smith as Harold's scheming and irascible dad Albert who stole the show.

He emerged from the outside 'khazi' grimacing just like Wilfred Brambell and shocked the audience in the front row with a glimpse of his soiled underpants. This is probably not a show for the 'snowflake' generation.

It was great to see the inside of the odd couple's rag and bone home recreated on stage (thanks to the carpentry skills of John's retired dad), complete with life-sized skeleton and pub optics. The only thing missing was Harold yelling back: "You dirty old man."

Jeremy Smith as Albert and John Hewer as Harold in Hambledon Productions' version of the Galton and Simpson comedy Steptoe and Son at the Sheppey Little Theatre, Sheerness. Picture: Jack Lovett
Jeremy Smith as Albert and John Hewer as Harold in Hambledon Productions' version of the Galton and Simpson comedy Steptoe and Son at the Sheppey Little Theatre, Sheerness. Picture: Jack Lovett

It is worth noting the play was sadder than I remember. It had more pathos as Harold, 38, attempted to stand on his own feet and organise his own Christmas away from his overpowering father, being outsmarted at every turn. But (spoiler alert) he finally managed to spend the festive season with long-suffering girlfriend Marcia (played by mini-skirted stage manager Erin Ramsay, standing in for Poppy Adamson who was on holiday).

John, who also doubles as Tommy Cooper and Tony Hancock in other shows, only struck upon Steptoe by chance. He said: "I was in the wings with Jeremy when the light struck him and he looked just like Albert Steptoe. I told him and he did an impression. And that was that!"

Thank heavens he did. It is still a great night at the theatre. Just a pity not more Islanders went along to support it.

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