It takes a certain level of bravery to tackle Blackadder. The perennially popular comedy series saw Rown Atkinson and cast create characters that weren’t just memorable – they were iconic.
Fortunately, the Everyman Open Air Theatre don’t just have the chops to rise to the challenge. They also have the talent to back up their courage, and at opening night of Blackadder the Third, the first of four plays featured in the festival, they had everyone in stitches as they worked their way through three episodes of the show.
I knew I was in for a great night from the moment I walked into the open air venue at the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. Everyone was so lovely, the front of house staff going out of their way to make sure the audience felt welcome and at ease. When you’re in a good mood even before the first cast member walks out, you know you’re going to have fun.
I don’t envy anyone taking on the titular Blackadder, but Brian Smith wisely made the decision not to attempt to emulate Rowan Atkinson, bringing his own interpretation to the role. He was at his best when going off script – when Baldrick, played by Peter Harding-Roberts, fluffed his lines, Smith saved the day and had the audience roaring – and he always provided a solid grounding as the lead around which the rest of the action revolved.
My personal favourite was David O’Rourke as Prince George. If you closed your eyes, it could have been Hugh Laurie on the stage and he was a sheer delight as the air-headed Prince Regent. However, it also has to be said that Harding-Roberts made a superb Baldrick, and hats off to the casting director for placing the right people in the right roles. They were close enough to the original that you could relax in the knowledge that you were in safe hands, while bringing enough of their own spin to keep things fresh and new.
Overall, it was hard to believe that this was an amateur production. It was slick, smooth and, quite frankly, better than many professional shows I’ve been to. I had an absolute blast and cannot recommend it enough – if I could go back every night, I would.
If you’re looking for some first class summer entertainment, then the Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival is the place to be. I can’t wait to check out their production of Beauty and the Beast in a couple of weeks.
For further information and to book your tickets, visit the Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival’s website. You won’t regret it!