Hang On A Minute Lads..(review)

Hang On A Minute Lads I’ve Got A Great Idea.....

Thursday, 15th December 2011, 9:55 am

The idea was to put on a stage version of Michael Caine’s iconic super cool 1960s movie The Italian Job.

And on paper it probably read as a brilliantly conceived comedy to be audaciously tackled by one of the area’s top am-dram groups but, sadly, it ended up chaotically executed.

Actor Derek Rookley no doubt wished he hadn’t signed on for the heist of the century when the production was staged over two nights at The Court Theatre at the weekend.

In recent weeks he had turned out for two other productions at the venue. Being ready to take on a third role was perhaps pushing the envelop a smidge too far.

I don’t know about the opening night but Saturday was a nightmare for the man recruited to play Noel Coward’s film role of underworld kingpin Mr Bridger.

There were missed cues, a complete disaster of a scene where he couldn’t remember his lines, even after being prompted by the other actors, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did his best to adlib out of the mess he was in – and he got plenty of laughs – but director Dan Clucas could do nothing but resign himself to this being one performance where everything wasn’t all right on the night.

The 1960s film told the story of how a gang of thieves, headed by Caine’s Charlie Croker, stole a $4m consignment of bullion in Turin that was heading to the Fiat car factory. It’s remembered for a superb car chase through the Italian city’s congested streets by three British Minis, decked out in red, white and blue, and by that immortal line : “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

So it was incredibly ambitious to think about staging a theatrical production of a film largely shot outside and on the move, at speed, not to mention various stops at British landmarks like swinging Chelsea and Wormwood Scrubs.

The Frayed Knot Theatre Company are never one to shy away from a challenge. Clucas and the group had previously pulled off huge successes with The Titfield Thunderbolt and last year’s The 39 Steps.

This, sadly, wasn’t anywhere near up to their usual high standard. There were some inspired moments but it was largely a hit or miss affair with the production getting as many laughs for the gaffes as they did for the occasionally ingenious performance. It was also strictly for fans of the film - anyone else would be hopelessly lost.

It was a courageous effort but one which, ultimately, they failed to pull off. In the programme Clucas admits: “Somewhat experimental, with only a flimsy idea of how this might work on stage, we have embarked upon a journey of discovery trying to make things work during rehearsal. We may indeed come across to you as a bunch of nutters who have lost the plot.”

Rookley certainly did. Mike Code, so excellent recently as Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, held the story together with just enough cheek and confidence as the man with a plan while Wayne Maclaughlin enjoyed himself playing Mr Bridger’s number two, Camp Freddie. Very camp he was too and genuinely funny.