Review: Dick Barton: Special Agent

Dick Barton. Picture: Robert Fuller
Dick Barton. Picture: Robert Fuller
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The Church Hill Theatre

***

The Church Hill Theatre

THE Edinburgh People’s Theatre have made a good choice in Dick Barton: Special Agent. The theatre-goers who will remember the original radio programme are also a demographic that are keen supporters of local theatre and are likely to want to share their fond memories with family.

Playing to audiences of 20 million in its 1940s heyday, Dick Barton was as firm a family favourite as Doctor Who. Its theme tune, the Devil’s Gallop, is now so synonymous with madcap derring do, that it immediately evokes an entire era of heroic postwar frolics.

Also working in the EPT’s favour is the fact that there are several Dick Barton plays, ‘Special Agent’ being the first, providing the company with the opportunity to return to it in the future and build up a following of local fans who are keen for the next installment. The musical stage adaptation is a somewhat more tongue-in-cheek affair than the radio shows, and all the better for it, raising many laughs among the audience.

Leading the cast as Barton, and also Snowy White, Ronnie Millar takes time to warm into his roles. He is markedly more comfortable as lovable Cockney Snowy than Barton and one suspects first night nerves may have played a significant role in this difference. Playing Barton’s nemesis Baron Scarheart, Scott Braidwood is suitably nefarious, yet could allow his character to stray further into pantomime villain territory.

Marvelous supporting turns from Mairi Beaver as the mellifluous Marta Heartburn, Kyle Sutherland as Jock Anderson and Niloo-Far Khan as Daphne Fritters are well-observed, engaging and down right fun.

Director Iain Fraser allows his performers somewhat too much room to work, at times they need to be re-focussed on interacting with each other just as much as delivering their lines. A look at the current stage adaptation of The 39 Steps would likely help him clarify where he could take the material further and give him the confidence to try out more slapstick, lighting and sound effects in order to make the story really sing.

Run Ends Saturday