19-24 May 2014
Reviewed by Debbie Tasker
Yesterday we visited the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent for the opening night of a six night run of Last of the Duty Free. Situated in the centre of the town and surrounded by bars/cafes and restaurants it is a great place for an evening out. There is a very handy small car park with lots of disabled bays facing the stage door and a multi-storey a stone’s throw away. We were luckily enough to find a space in the smaller of the two.
Considering it is a newish building it is very regal and spacious. Everywhere is clean and nowhere seems crowded with plenty of seating. Staff are helpful and friendly and prices reasonable. We were in the stalls and had a clear view of the stage.
Bafta award winning Eric Chappel who also wrote Rising Damp and Only When I Laugh penned this U.K TV sitcom that had audiences of over twelve million between 1984 – 1986.
Set in the San Remo hotel on one of the Costas, Spain it tells the story of two couples whose love lives become entwined over the period of their stay with hilarious consequences. It is now twenty years on and the two love struck oldies acting like love sick teenagers are back and for a lovers tryst not realising that their partners are hot on their heels! Also staying at the San Remo are newly-wed holiday makers Clare (Maxine Gregory) and Jeremy (Keith Barron’s son James) who get the wrong end of the stick at every turn. Dithering waiter Carlos (now played by Graham Elwell) is back bringing some slapstick with him.
Three of the original cast reprise their role, Keith Barron, who looks marvellous at 80, is David who has the idea he is some kind of Casanova, Gwen Taylor also looking fantastic at 75 is his long suffering wife Amy, her comic timing is perfect and most of the laugh out loud moments (and there were a lot) came from her lines and how she delivered them. Neil Stacy doesn’t seem to have aged at all since I used to watch this as a teenager, he is Robert a rather pompous man who is married to Linda a very glamorous flirty middle aged woman who David has fallen for hook line and sinker, Carole Royle plays this role and fits in with the cast.
Set and costume designer Julie Godfrey has done an excellent job. The set makes you want be there yourself. Use of lighting to go from day to evening scenes make it even more believable. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay at the San Remo with the beautiful balconies and al fresco eating area. The outfits the ladies wear are very up to date full of vibrant colours with floppy hats and big sunglasses it makes it more a ‘now’ setting. A really outstanding set.
We laughed and giggled our way through the evening along with the rest of the audience. It was a shame that the theatre was only half full but it didn’t affect the atmosphere. You could see everybody was enjoying the trip down memory lane. The lady next to me was with her daughter who wasn’t born when the original series was aired but after she said it was great and had enjoyed it very much so I don’t think you have to be a fan from back in the day to appreciate Last of the Duty Free and its slapstick humour.
Tickets cost from £11.90 to £32.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 7649.
Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1AP | 0844 871 7649