★★ | Last Of The Duty Free
Following on from the popular TV series of the 1980’s, Last Of The Duty Free see’s David and Linda having both pulled the wool over their respective partners eyes and reunite at the hotel in Spain where they began their love affair all those years before. But with Robert and Amy both arriving at the resort, suspicious of their cheating spouses, an interfering newly married couple managing to get the wrong end of the stick with every situation they observe and Carlos the waiter still struggling with his sore feet, the scene is set for more romance, confusion and narrow escapes as David and Linda try to reignite their passions.
The show reunites three of the four main actors from the original show; Keith Barron, Gwen Taylor and Neil Stacey all revive their TV roles, with Carol Royle joining them as Linda. The cast appeared to have slipped comfortably back into their old roles, with them all giving very natural performances.
Written by Eric Chappell, who co-wrote the original series, the humour was gentle and subtle, generating chuckles, rather than belly laughs. The comedy was very non offensive, and played on comedy staples such as mistaken identity, near misses, misunderstandings over unrequited desires and battles of both wits and the sexes. In its style, the piece was very traditional and in perfect keeping with the original TV series and in a similar vein to other comedy series written by Chappell, such as Only When I Laugh and Rising Damp. The story was suitably simple and undemanding; allowing the audience to be transported back to their living rooms of the 80’s to watch the TV sitcom unfold live on stage. The play, thankfully, didn’t try to update itself and cram in numerous references to its modern day setting, remaining faithful to its roots, with only the briefest mention of mobile phones.
The set was static and did have an essence of the purpose built hotel complexes associated with inexpensive package holidays, and the brief interludes of Spanish guitar music generated a holiday feel. Both the direction and the lighting were functional and the sound clear and audible.
The Last of the Duty Free is curious a show. Whether you enjoy this play will depend largely on whether you enjoyed the original TV series and the classic sitcoms of the 1980’s. The play is unlikely to win over many new fans, and you do have to wonder why the show is revived 28 years after it ended its highly successful TV run. The play may be described as dated by some in terms of both its setting or writing, but equally, could be described as nostalgic by others, harking back to a style of inoffensive comedy and a more established style of conventional comedy writing.
Last of the Duty Free is currently playing at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 21st June 2014 before rounding off its national tour.