DramaNorth WestReview

Heartbeat – Opera House, Manchester

Writer: David Lonsdale
Director: Keith Myers
Reviewer: Stephen M Hornby


The set for Heartbeat acts as a metaphor for most of the things that are wrong with this production. The wonderful countryside of Yorkshire is represented by some astroturf, fake flowers and a plastic wall all thrown together with a wonky sense of perspective. The nostalgia-laden fictional village of Aidensfield is conflated into one endlessly revolving pub set. The title of the TV show is projected above the set of this comedy play reminding us that it feels like it’s written for the wrong medium.

The writing is dire. It echoes bad situation comedies of the past, offering no new twists on lame jokes and set-ups. The dialogue is a string of po-faced clichés, typically ‘We don’t want PC plod sticking his beak in’. The characters’ lines sometimes simply make no sense: a barmaid comments on how depressed a policeman is when he’s simply come in and sat down; another policeman comments on how strange a visitor is when he’s not done or said anything strange, and the motivations and actions of the four characters involved in the climax of the play are just repetitive nonsense.

The writer is David Lonsdale, who also plays one of the characters that transfers from the TV series to this stage adaptation, David Stockwell. He just hasn’t grasped some of the basics of writing for the stage. For example, instead of a crucial strong opening, the first scene of the play is ambling and third rate, with characters constantly off stage shouting on, or worse leaving the stage empty altogether. A consistent weakness is the short length of some scenes. It’s easy to cut between short scenes on screen, but on stage, the business of entrances and exits and a slow revolving set, means some scenes feel shorter than the set changes between them. In television, cliffhangers are written in to keep audiences hooked during add breaks. On stage, you have a captive audience. So, when Lonsdale’s script persistently breaks scenes just as they get flowing, the result is the opposite of tension as the onstage energy and flow constantly gets interrupted and dissipates.

The cast soldiers bravely on, trying to find something to perform in this one-dimensional nonsense. PC Joe Malton is the latest inheritor of the leading man mantel. He doesn’t really get much to do, but Matt Milburn gives us a clear picture of an upstanding young country copper. Gina Bellamy, the acting landlady, is played with Scouse conviction by Carly Cook, who even makes lines like ‘Now don’t you go forgetting [insert what her character has just said 10 seconds ago]’ sound OK. David Horne is weaker as Bernie Scripps, often mistiming jokes. Lonsdale as David Stockwell and Steven Blakeley as PC Geoff Younger form a comedy double-act that does raise a couple of laughs, but as they are the only actors from the TV series, it also leaves all the scenes they’re not in feeling a bit hollow and inauthentic. Perhaps the fault, though ultimately lies with the director Keith Myer, who can’t decide if he’s directing a farce or a period drama, and who should have stopped the stage from revolving, constantly slowing the pace and diverting from the action.

Heartbeat is areal failure. It isn’t finishing off a story. It’s diminishing it. It’s hard not to see it as a disappointing and cynical exploitation of the TV show’s fanbase. It fails to make the transition from TV to stage. It fails to deliver either much comedy or any believable drama. And it fails most of all to have any heart. A total flatliner.

Runs until 30 April2016 | Image: Contributed

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  1. Totally agree, dreadful cliché ridden bilge….left at the first interval and courtesy was the only thing stopping a friend and I from leaving sooner….

  2. We were the lucky ones. We won our tickets in a competition, so only had to pay petrol costs, car parking and £3-50 for a smear of ice cream in a cardboard tub. Sympathies to those who parted with hard cash for a ticket. At the end of the “performance” two quick bows and a hasty exit from what must have been an embarrassed cast. We could not believe the amateurish offerings and the ropey set. We’ve seen better acted and funnier school plays. If you go to the play expect a further expense – three quid for a tube of Voltarol, your neck will be sore from shaking your head in disbelief.

  3. Sadly I have to agree with the above comments and the review is spot on. What a disappointing evening. Low budget set and poor acting. As soon as it started the actors started shouting – so off putting. The comedy duo of David Stockwell and PC Geoff Younger gave a few belly laughs which stopped me leaving at the interval. It was nothing like Heartbeat – nothing.

  4. I agree with all above comments shocking waste of money, very poor acting if you can call it that, left in the interval

  5. Not a fantastic production but not the total disaster described in the review. Yes, the set is occasionally creaky, as are some of the lines and accents, but there’s a great comedy triple act with two characters and a stuffed dog, and as a nice easy gentle evening at the theatre, it’s an old comfortable jumper of a play, much like the old TV series itself.

  6. Well said Iain, I think some have never seen Heartbeat …. I made the big mistake and read the reviews… Nothing like the TV series ? .. There’s was a pub, a policeman and the wrongdoers, the hapless David and PC Younger ( who both were good) … And the set … What do you want sheep and the countryside on such a small stage … Use your imagination .. It’s a stage production NOT the TV series !!!!

  7. I bought the tickets for my husbands birthday as he loves Heartbeat. What a complete waste of £86. We left after 15 minutes as we couldn’t bear it any longer. The set didn’t fit the stage. The acting was so poor. It was my worst theatre experience ever.

  8. Having seen every episode of the TV series, I looked forward to seeing it on stage and wasn’t disappointed. I saw the show at Northampton and really enjoyed the stage version of Heartbeat. It took me just a little while to get used to the new actors playing the parts of Gina, Bernie and Joe the new policeman. All the actors gave a great performance, particularly David Lonsdale and Steven Blakeley.

  9. Very disappointing show. Accents were awful, scenery cheaply designed the whole performance was very amateurish. Can’t believe how much the tickets cost for such a shabby performance

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