Blackadder II, Athenaeum Limelight Players, Warminster

WHY do we love Blackadder? He is really an awful person, ridicules his devoted friend Lord Percy, treats his (admittedly squalid) servant Baldrick like something he might kick into the gutter, and generally would have been at home lording it over the Bullingdon Club in any century.

There is something refreshing about his arrogance, his verbal dexterity, regularly deployed at someone else’s expense, and his endless ability to call on a sardonic sense of humour in even the nastiest situation (like being clapped into a box of spikes in a torture dungeon).

Following in the footsteps of Rowan Atkinson is a tall order. but Andrew Chapman steps with well deserved confidence into the dashing boots and black doublet of his hero. A huge fan of the original television programme, he is clearly enjoying “unleashing his cynicism and sarcasm” on the “unsuspecting” audience.

The other leading characters are all in similarly safe hands, notably Rebecca Richardson as Queenie. My vision-impaired friend said she “sounded just like Miranda Richardson” – and was, if anything, even prettier.

Paul Hopper was due to play Lord Percy, but had a minor accident on the opening night, and director Marc Cox took over, reading the script, but fully costumed and foot perfect.

Close your eyes and listen to Clive Orchard as Baldrick and you could be hearing Tony Robinson – it’s a wonderful performance, as is Sara Young as Nursie and Mark Whitwood as Lord Melchett..The rest of the cast (too many to name) were all hilarious as their various venal, oversexed, craven, comical or otherwise lunatic characters.

Blackadder II is four brilliantly funny playlets, set in Elizabethan times, beginning with the wonderful Bells, (who could forget the way Blackadder says “Bob”), Money (with David Bonner-Smith as the corrupt and perverted Bishop), Potato, a tale of improbable adventures on the high seas, and Chains, which gave full rein to Jamie House’s skills as an impressionist playing the evil Prince Ludwig the Indestructible.

Inventive use of technology, entertaining mini-films of a Jester and Blackadder running around atmospheric castle ruins, and medieval style scrolls to move the time and place on, all added to an evening of near constant laughter.

Now celebrating their 50th year, ALPs continue to be a rich source of entertainment and good drama. Blackadder II continues at the Athenaeum Theatre in Warminster until Saturday 30th November.


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