Thursday, 16 January 2014

On Stage: Dick Barton - Special Agent, Dolman Theatre, Newport

Cue the Devil’s Gallop! Dick Barton-Special Agent is back, this time courtesy of Newport Playgoers musical-comedy presentation at The Dolman Theatre.

Barton aficionados will notice quite a change in the Phil Wilmot scripted show, as the legendary post-war radio detective breaks his own personal code-of-conduct several times as he is subjected to double entendres, drugs and even acquiring a femme fatale girlfriend.

The production however is a lot of fun from start to finish and a farcical/musical hall salute to the Britishness of radio drama in the 1940s/50s with a touch of Carry On thrown in for good measure.

Newport Playgoers presentation
of Dick Barton - Special Agent
Photograph: Phil Mansell
The smoky brown set resembles a BBC Radio recording studio from the 1940s. Richard Dymond, in dinner jacket, oversees the announcements on BBC microphones while Bruce Campbell adds comic effect on cue (or not as the mood may take) as the sound effects man.

Kevin Myers displays versatility as the hero, the suave Dick Barton and the slightly dim-witted sidekick Snowy White. Myers convincingly portrays two characters who at times become one while still maintaining a heroic demeanour. His highlight is saving the day with a tap-dance routine which gained a huge applause from the audience.

John Sheen adds fun as the strong arm working class assistant with a Scottish accent Jock Anderson, a comical highlight been his musical pairing on A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square with the frightfully wonderful Nicola Carlyle as Daphne Fritters.

The real show stealers though are the villains of the piece. Stephen Saunders delivers a convincingly caricatured portrayal of Baron Scarheart a criminal hell-bent on world domination, while the psychotic, seductive and sultry Marta Heartburn is played to perfection by Rosamund Jones-Griffiths, a natural comedienne who can deliver a perfect double entendre with a mere glint in her eye.

Dick Barton-Special Agent continues at The Dolman Theatre until Saturday January 18.
  • This review by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus during January 2014.