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Previewed 16 February 2006, Opened 22 February 2006, Closed 15 April 2006 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
The new stage comedy Steptoe and Son in Murder at Oil Drum Lane in London written by Ray Galton and John Antrobus and based on the original television series.
Based on the classic 1960s/70s television characters 'Harold' and 'Albert' from the Steptoe and Son, this new comedy has been co-written by the show's original creator Ray Galton and is set somewhere in the future. In the quiet streets of Oil Drum Lane in London stands a house, once belonging to a father and unmarried son who ran a decrepit rag-and-bone business. Today, the Steptoe house is now in the safe and loving hands of the National Trust as the last remaining example of a typical totters yard. Albert is long dead - finally killed in a fit of pique by Harold hurling an assegai through the door of the karzy. Harold has done a bunk to South America to escape being sentenced to the loony bin. But now, some years later, he slips back into the country to revisit the scene of the crime... only to discover the ghost of Albert waiting for his return...
For the first time on stage in an intriguing new story, Harold and Albert are once again at each other's throats as we get the full, unexpurgated account of their hilarious relationship from cradle to the grave... and beyond.
The cast for Steptoe and Son in London features Harry Dickman as 'Albert' and Jake Nightingale as 'Harold' with Alyson Coote, Juliet Howland abd Laurence Kennedy. Directed by Roger Smith with designs by Nigel Hook, lighting by Richard G Jones and music by Christopher Madin, based on a theme by Ron Grainer.
"Nostalgia may or may not be what it used to be, but should you be that way inclined, miniature figures of Wilfrid Brambell's Albert Steptoe, Harry H Corbett's Harold and old Hercules, who pulled their rag and bone cart through Shepherd's Bush from the Sixties into the Seventies, are for sale on the internet, and three TV series are available on DVD. Hard-bitten aficionados might also consider what the therapists call closure and choose to bury these characters for the very last time in Murder At Oil Drum Lane. Ray Galton, creator of the original, and co-writer John Antrobus have resurrected the Steptoes from their television grave for one final appearance. I wouldn't recommend it. This is not a case of friends reunited but a mirthless reminder that nothing can compete with cherished memories. Jake Nightingale is good at swallowing his 'r's or 't's, revelling in snippets of Shakespeare and dreaming of what might have been had he gone to St Paul's, then Oxford, but can't capture Harold's desperation in the face of his father's vile, dirty duplicity. Harry Dickman's swivel-eyed Albert is never as disgustingly craven or wheedling as he might be... Indescribably dull, mechanical, predictable; museums have more life in them than this." The Mail on Sunday
"The original Steptoe And Son, set in a junk yard, regularly attracted a TV audience of 25 million in the 1960s. Now one of the original writers Ray Galton (Alan Simpson has retired) has teamed up with John Antrobus to create a quirky black comedy about the bickering father and son... The plot sustains several postwar flashbacks, but because our sense of humour has changed radically in 40 years, what seemed hilarious is now inclined to seem a little sad... For those who don't know the original, Jake Nightingale and Harry Dickman pull off a clever conjuring trick which is to recall Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell without ever going for straight imitation... Judged as pure farce, Steptoe and Son is untidy, having to work on so many different levels of nostalgia and new gags, vaudeville and variety. But as a loose-limbed, loose-leafed celebration of the TV series it will work to precisely the limits at which you loved or loathed the original." The Daily Express
"This plundering of a legend is subtitled Murder In Oil Drum Lane but all original writer (with Alan Simpson) Ray Galton and his new partner John Antrobus are guilty of is beating up the memory of dead stars Harry H Corbett and Wilfred Brambell. Not that their impersonators are bad - in fact Jake Nightingale does a terrific job as truculent son Harold. But director Roger Smith's production struggles with a script that never captures the magic of the TV rag and bone men of the Sixties and Seventies. Not quite a load of old junk...but almost." The Sun
Ray Galton on writing the new Steptoe and Son in Murder at Oil Drum Lane stage play: "I wasn't interested at all in writing the further adventures of Steptoe and Son and, apart from anything else, the two actors had died... But then I did have an idea which I was happy to work with - and that was if Harold has murdered the old man and has got away. He always promised to do so in every show, didn't he? "I'll kill you, I'll kill you!", he'd keep saying, so on that proviso I agreed. And once that was decided it became quite interesting... But what we didn't want to do was have replicas of Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell or have actors doing impressions of them. We thought that would be boring, unfair to the actors and unfair to the audience. But at the same time we had to make them acceptable to people coming to see the play; they won't be expecting Harry and Wilfrid, but they will be after actors who look a bit like them and sound a bit like them, so we've tried to match height and body shape and so on, and asked the actors to deliver the words in a way that is acceptable while not being a Dead Ringers impression."
Steptoe and Son was originally created and written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and starred Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell. Although originally written as a one-off comedy Steptoe and Son was developed into a series that run on television for 12 years, from 1962 to 1974. The series was groundbreaking in many ways, for example it dealt with an underclass previously seen on television only in realistic dramas, not sitcoms; and its underlying theme of the son trying desperately to escape the clutches of his wily father imbued the series with a pathos and poignancy hitherto absent from the sitcom genre.
Murder at Oil Drum Lane with Steptoe and Son in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 16 February 2006, opened on 22 February 2006 and closed on 15 April 2006.