Review: Dick Barton Special Agent, The Secret of the Pharaoh’s Tomb, by Phil Willmott, Suffolk Summer Theatres, Jubilee Hall, St Edmunds Hall, Southwold, August 19 – 31.

Dick Barton Special Agent:
Episode 2 The Secret of the Pharoahs's Tomb by Phil Willmott
with Katy

Dick Barton Special Agent: Episode 2 The Secret of the Pharoahs's Tomb by Phil Willmott with Katy Federman, Simon Stanhope and Jonathan Ashley - Credit: Archant

People of a certain age may remember tuning in their wireless sets to catch the latest episode in the adventures of the intrepid Dick Barton as - like the big screen James Bond figure which was to follow him - he tackled the heinous activities of Johnny Foreigner.

Dick Barton Special Agent:
Episode 2 The Secret of the Pharoahs's Tomb by Phil Willmott
with Jona

Dick Barton Special Agent: Episode 2 The Secret of the Pharoahs's Tomb by Phil Willmott with Jonathan Ashley, Jamie Chapman, Simon Stanhope and Katy Federman - Credit: Archant

Between the years 1946 and 1951 the BBC broadcast a “soap” which pre-dated even The Archers and which engaged a generation still coping with post-war austerity.

The character of Dick Barton was revived in 1998 when Phil Willmott resurrected him in “spoof” mode for a very successful Christmas show at a Croydon theatre.

The first episode in Willmott’s series of “ripping yarns” was presented at Southwold in 2007 and this is the second instalment.

If pantomime style delivery and schoolboy humour is your forte then look no further than this production.


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The ingenuity of set designer Maurice Rubens was on display but I could not help but wonder why his talents and those of some very good actors could be devoted to a show which has all the hallmarks of a student review – full of sexual innuendo, tongue-in-cheek action and some painful song renditions.

A “pop up” motor car, complete with headlamps, was delightful, as was the creation of a light aircraft using planks and a ceiling fan.

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But clunky and complex set changes tended to slow the pace of a show which, at least on the opening night, was neither slick nor fully audible.

One wonders if the show would be funnier if the characters were always played with deadly seriousness and there had been less inclination to “corpse”.

The actors stuck to their task but such was the mountain for them to climb they rarely got much further than, to use another innuendo, base camp.

David Green

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