By Ilona Cabral
***If you have not seen Blackadder, this article contains spoilers (and if you have not seen Blackadder go and watch it now!)***
“Blackadder”, a single word which brings back a torrent of childhood memories. A show which reminds you of some of the most iconic actors of our generation: Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Tony Morrison. Considering this towering legacy, the Everyman Theatre Company had their task cut for them when producing their stage adaptation of Blackadder Goes Forth. The production is the second part of the Everyman’s World War I double bill – also featuring Journey’s End, for their Centenary celebration. After seeing the production, I can only say that the cast performed this show to a standard just shy of that of the original.
The production was incredibly true to the TV script (but honestly who could alter or omit Atkinson’s numerous scathing puns and metaphors). The witty and ironic dialogue is an integral part of the shows’ roaring success, highlighting each characters’ unique identity whilst subtly criticising the society which created such individuals. The actors chosen to portray our favourite trench heroes were also eerily similar to the originals, especially Phil Gerken who made us all fall in love with the disgusting and idiotic (yet surprisingly insightful) character that is Baldrick all over again. However, a special mention should be given to the hilarious ‘Gorgeous Georgina’ (and even better George) Mat Hole.
The audio and visual aspects of the show were also incredibly effective with minimal props and scenery changes, yet somehow managing to draw the audience into each setting: from the gloomy trenches; to a foul German Prison; to the sky. Meanwhile, the subtly distorted World War One soundtracks set the tone of each scene, providing critical commentary through iconic soldiers songs like, “They were only playing leapfrog”.
The show presented each episode of the TV series in succession creating a flowing narrative which simultaneous highlighted the hilarity and monotony of the trenches. As each ‘episode’ passed the audience were sucked deeper into the story, enthralled by the ridiculous characters’ scrapes that we all knew, but somehow still found hilarious. This continuous story and proximity to the actors made the audience feel involved, unable (and unwilling) to escape, just like the characters in the tale before us. This proximity also made the ending that much more tragic.
In my opinion (and I am sure many others), the ending to the Blackadder series is one of the most emotive and effective TV show finales. This poignancy was merely heightened in the stage play format, forcing the audience to question how so many men could have been discarded merely for inches of ground. As the characters we loved stepped up on those ladders, desperately trying to formulate some escape from certain death, the sacrifice that was (and continues to be) made by millions of soldiers seemed all too real and immoral.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane; if you want to see a fantastic show; if you want your eyes to be opened once more to the devastation of War, head down to Chapter and see Blackadder Goes Forth.