A 2014 SPACE ODDITY
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Saturday 19th April, 2014
When the hapless Chuckle Brothers, Paul and Barry go shopping for water pistols they inadvertently end up in outer space on one of their crazy adventures. Well, it happens. They find themselves on board a spaceship where they are enlisted by Captain Birk – he is desperate for new crew members and he’d have to be. Meanwhile, pointy-eared villain Mr Spot is scheming to take over the ship and probably the universe as well.
The plot is incidental, of course. It’s all about the dozy duo getting to do their shtick which consists of catchphrases, the corniest jokes outside of panto, and some double-talk worthy of Abbott and Costello. It’s knockabout stuff and very silly. Yes, a man of my vintage may have heard all the jokes before but to the kids in the crowd it’s all new and fresh. Mind you, the Dads nearest to me seemed to be enjoying it the most. Schoolboy humour, puerile fart jokes and word play are the order of the day, along with liberal soakings from the water pistols of course. It’s panto without the fairytale, music hall without the music.
Barry (the little one) is the fall guy to Paul (the big one)’s straight man – although they both can be as daft as each other. The patter flows easily. These two are completely at their ease – they should be: they’ve been doing this stuff for 50 years – and clearly still enjoy it. They are supported by their elder brothers, as Birk (Jimmy Patton) and Spot (Brian Patton). We are almost in Marx Brothers territory here with a very British, very Northern flavour. The gags and routines may be ancient but they’re also timeless. We get the mop drill, the ghost scene (albeit with an alien instead) and even a version of The 12 Days of Christmas, suitably doctored for the sci-fi setting. One sequence in which they have been shrunk with squeaky voices to match could be funnier if the sound wasn’t so distorted you can’t hear everything they’re saying.
Richard Morgan fleshes out the cast nicely as Mr Ludo and there is magical support from illusionists Safire (Stuart and Jayne Loughland) – although these two bring variety to the performance, you just want Barry and Paul to come back on. There’s a ‘black theatre’ sequence that gets off to a promising start but runs out of ideas, although the youngsters I could see in the audience were lapping it up.
The Chuckle Brothers are cheeky, harmless fun, good-natured and highly skilled in an old-school way that still has lots of mileage in it.