ReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Cissie and Ada – The Old Courtroom

Creators: OCR Productions

Reviewer: Simon Topping

Cissie and Ada, the immortal comic characters created by the late great Les Dawson, aided by the wonderfully talented Roy Barraclough and sparklingly written by Terry Ravenscroft, were firm favourites of British television in the 1970s and 80s.

Tonight drag artistes Linda Bacardi and Stephanie Von Clitz promise to bring those characters to life once more in a hilarious adaptation and re-enactment; all the old laughs with some new twists.  As the lights go down and into music begins the audience wait expectantly in anticipation of a fitting tribute to the two legends.

For the first minute or so the crowd believe a subversive performance is about the take shape as Bacardi playing Dawson comes out with a penis shaped ice lolly for a rendition of the first sketch: A week at the Seaside.  Quite soon, however, it becomes clear that the show is neither innovative nor homage but merely a lip-syncing plod through several classic skits with original soundtrack playing as the action takes place (accompanying projection of images relating to the location of each piece displayed behind).

The lip syncing itself is mostly poor and has the frustrating ability to draw attention away from the fabulous material you can hear being performed. Both Bacardi and Von Clitz do not comedically embody their characters well.  They are stiff and slow, always one beat behind the material which shatters the comedy timing.  The show becomes infinitely better when eyes are closed, focusing on the original delivery.  Half a dozen or so sketches are done in this way in the first half as we limp to the interval.

A vastly thinned public return for part two, willing the piece to have a shift in pace or try something new.  Disappointingly the hardy remainder just receive thirty more minutes of the same; no new twists, very little laughs and an oddly low energy performance.

Cissie and Ada could be performed well; the duo on stage have missed a trick.  Why not learn the comedy and perform it in your own voices?  Perhaps have a modern take on it all; make it risqué or anarchic. On the basis of this performance, the crowd cannot be sure if Von Clitz and Bacardi are even Les Dawson fans and need to go back to the drawing board to find its heart and who it is for.

It comes as a relief when the review ends; the audience leave in silence, wondering just exactly what has happened.

Reviewed on 27th May

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