East Anglia: Seagull Rep stage sit-com classic Blackadder

The Seagull Rep stage Blackadder II Parte The Firste around the region this year.

The Seagull Rep stage Blackadder II Parte The Firste around the region this year. - Credit: Archant

When it comes to getting bums on seat, the Seagull Rep has a cunning plan.

This week sees the opening of its third touring show of the year, Blackadder II – Parte the Firste, written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton.

“It’s such an exciting year” says artistic director John Hales. “We’ve had extraordinary critical acclaim for our shows Swimming with Sharks and the amazing Vicar of Dibley tour so far this year so, after the success of those and three tours of Fawlty Towers we felt it was time to take on another giant – the Blackadder series.”

The company is starting with the first three episodes of the second series.

“It’s just so funny and brilliantly written,” says Jonny Goddard, returning to the Rep to take on the role of Edmund Blackadder.

“Compared to the first series there is a massive change in the central three characters but particularly Edmund and Baldrick, who have almost reversed roles. People love Blackadder’s suave cunning and sexiness in this series as opposed to the blithering idiot of the first series.

“Yep, blithering idiot duties are mine,” chirps Thom Bailey, playing his faithful but hapless servant Baldrick.

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The first three episodes feature fantastic characters like Lord Flashheart and Redbeard Rum. Both roles, originally taken on by Rik Mayall and Tom Baker, are being taken on by Rep veteran Andy Wisher who is loving every second of it.

“Flashheart is supposedly the coolest man alive so it’s a challenge,” laughs Andy.

“Andy in full flow as Flashheart and Redbeard is a sight to behold,” counters John, who is directing. “The audiences will be a little breathless by the end of it – it’s hysterical.”

Almost as famous as Blackadder and Baldrick is Queen Elizabeth.

“She’s such fun to play,” says actress Sharn McDonald, who was great as verger Alice Tinker in Vicar of Dibley. “She’s the most powerful woman in the world, with the maturity of a spoilt little girl; how can you not love playing her?”

The episodes are jam-packed with enough laughs to knock your block off. Bells sees Blackadder in crisis when he falls for his manservant Bob, actually a disguised peasant girl; Head sees his job as Lord High Executioner land him in the Queen’s firing line while Potato sees Blackadder take on a lunatic sea voyage to compete with the obnoxious Sir Walter Raleigh for the love of the Queen.

Curtis and Elton are donating the performing rights for the show to Comic Relief.

“Everyone comes out a winner really, we raise money for the theatre and Comic Relief. The team and, above all, the audience have a blast in the process,” says John. “This is the beginning of a whole new chapter for the Rep. Our plan is to do the final three episodes of series two in April-May 2014 and Blackadder Goes Forth, with the heartbreaking final episode, in October and November 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

“As ever, the company works hard to make these shows not just a staging of the TV show but an experience, as anyone that has been to see them will know.”

The show runs from Wednesday, October 16, at the Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft, then visits St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth, The Norwich Playhouse, Beccles Public Hall and Diss Corn Hall before finishing back at the Seagull on November 9. Visit www.theseagull.co.uk for ticket details.

Check out the web gallery above.