Only Fools and Horses,
Writers: Paul Whitehouse and Jim Sullivan
Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Music: John Sullivan and Chas Hodges
Cast: Tom Bennett, Ryan Hutton, Samantha Seager, Philip Childs, Pippa Duffy, Lee Van Geleen, Andy Mac, Lisa Bridge, Jeff Nicholson, Adrien Irvine, Adam Venus, Pete Gallagher, Oscar Conlan Morrey, Chris Kiely
Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including interval
Dates of run: extended to February 2020
Funny, reassuring and irrepressibly warm, the West End version of Only Fools and Horses is proving to be the right musical at the right time.
Launched in February, with an initial six-month run, it has so far been extended to next February and, judging by the record ticket sales, could endure for as long as the television series that inspired it as it taps into a human desire to escape when the issues we need to confront are overwhelming.
Half a year in, the show has hit its energetic stride; the comedy is slicker and the emotions richer.
Tom Bennett, cigar between his teeth, wide-boy patter perfected, practically is Del Boy. As the character has developed, the vulnerabilities that make him loveable grin through the veneer of humour and a trademark laugh that glosses errors as jest.
Ryan Hutton as the nasal, miserable-sounding Rodney, with fewer educational gaps and the emotional security of a steady girlfriend, is the perfect foil.
Both Bennett and Hutton have had these roles from the start and together form the fundamentally decent, unthreatening heart of a close-knit family in a close-knit community.
On the night I re-visited, Samantha Seager, previously Marlene, brought delicate romance to the role of Raquel, while Paul Whitehouse took a hard-earned rest from his masterly Grandad, making way for Philip Childs to emerge gruffly from behind the Nags Head bar.
Lisa Bridge gamely took the part of Marlene to Jeff Nicholson’s Boycie, whose fertility problems mock his wealth and pomp.
The other minor tones are delivered harmoniously by the villains Adam Venus as Tony Driscoll and Pete Gallagher as his brother Danny.
It all flirts with tragedy, but this musical theatre is expertly judged to cheer the punters – around 250,000 to date – in a belief that everything will be fine: there’s no need to take life too seriously or think too deeply.
With a glow, we head out into the October air and the Extinction Rebellion protest outside.
Barbara Lewis © 2019.