Hot off the stage: Rigsby and co leap from screen to Floral Pavilion stage

Wirral Globe: Cast of stage version of Rising Damp Cast of stage version of Rising Damp

WHEN you walk into the Floral Pavilion for Rising Damp be prepared to watch a TV classic re-appear without using the remote control.

Switch off and imagine the stage is a huge telly screen where some memorable characters come to life.

This is a surreal 3D experience with very human 'special effects'.

Eric Chappell's classic situation comedy, based on a true story of an African prince who duped a landlord, comes alive thanks to this very first-class touring production from the accomplished Comedy Theatre Company.

It aired on ITV from 1974 to 1978 and remains an all-time sitcom great.

This theatre show is on a winner from the outset when the audience actually clap and collectively say an affectionate"aaah" at the brilliantly re-created boarding house set - the familiar dingy room portrayed in the TV version.

We are taken back to that seedy bedsit - which is every bit as threadbare as landlord Rigsby's cardigan.

His whole persona is as unsightly as the grim walls and run-down ambience of the flat he rents out to two very different tenants, while trying to woo another housemate - the prissy, above-his-class Miss Jones.

As in recent telly-to-stage adaptations there will always be creative comparisons.

Audiences have already lapped-up such shows from Porridge to Vicar Of Dibley.

Here the cast of four actually look like the original characters if not, in some cases, sounding like them.

That is a positive thing, allowing the actors to add their own nuances to the script.

Rigsby on TV was fleshed out by the late Liverpudlian actor Leonard Rossiter on screen and was a timeless character who would go down in TV history.

He was a Shakespearean-like tragic figure; a modern day Malvolio, endlessly ridiculed and all due to his own making.

Stephen Chapman here becomes Rigsby. Like a player in a top tribute band, he perfectly captures the character he is playing.

He has all the right movements: sneering Rigsby intonations; body language and numerous nervous tics.

He is the dead spit of Rigsby - and his on stage performance is faultless.

It is a performance that makes you feel sad and sympathetic for the lonely, deluded, landlord and that is some achievement.

Chris Charles takes on the role of 'African royalty' Philip who is not what he seems, a role played with beautiful understatement in the original by Don Warrington.

Don is the original director of this production.

Paul Morse plays shy medical student Alan, taking on the multi-layered part that was one of the late Richard Beckinsale's classic performances.

And last - and certainly not least - in this joyful jigsaw is Airlie Scott's Miss Jones.

"Miss Jones ... Miss Jones" that plaintive catchphrase is now a mainstay of any impersonator and here it is greeted with audience approval.

Frances De La Tour played the original - another hard act to follow, but one that this fourth member of this Fab Four pull off with great aplomb.

The two-act show, each featuring three scenes, provides classic moments from the series.

Among them are drunken Rigsby wooing Miss Jones with mystical love wood; Miss Jones talking about her father on Guy Fawkes' night (one of many laugh-out-loud moments) and Alan's whimsical dance with a skeleton.

Sadly, there's no Vienna the cat - one of the TV show's other heroes, but he's there in spirit.

There's a soundtrack featuring The Kinks, The Troggs and Rachmaninov.

Rising Damp, on its national tour, is a wonderful live piece of telly nostalgia brought magically back to life.

A real treat to see old friends from the small screen again - performed with much love and affection from a cracking cast and crew.

9/10; Superb entertainment

Performances start at 7.30pm, with a 2pm Wednesday matinee.

Box office 0151 606 6666

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