The hit ITV show Heartbeat, based on the Constable series of novels by Nicholas Rhea arrested the attention of the Opera House, Manchester for the first of 6 nights. The show is set in the 1960's village of Aidensfield which is a fictional moorland village. The TV version of the show was filmed mainly in the scenic village of Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors near Whitby. Rhea was the pen name of Peter Walker a former country policeman. The TV show launched in 1992 and was an immediate success with an average audience of 14.5 and million viewers in the first season.
This touring version brings to the stage two of the TV stars in David Lonsdale as David Stockwell and Steven Blakeley as PC Geoff Younger. The show is set around the Aidensfield Arms pub which is being run by Gina Bellamy played by Carly Cook. Carly trained at the Hammond School Chester until she graduated in 2013. Gina is running the pub in the absence of Oscar Blaketon the former police sergeant.
The set is a cleverly designed revolving unit switching between pub and countryside, with a large screen projection behind enhancing the experience. Intermingled with sixties music as set changes occur, the memories of the hit show come flooding back. Green grass gets a mention and David is accompanied by Alfred the dog. Lonsdale plays David Stockwell true to the original show and even received a round of applause as he first enters the stage fishing.
We are soon introduced to Bernie Scripps who is well played by David Horne, who is celebrating 40 years as an actor and is also a director who has staged numerous national tours. Along with PC Joe Malton played by the very talented Matt Milburn who many will recognise from the TV shows Hollyoaks and Emmerdale. PC Geoff Younger also joins the show early on and is played by Blakeley who was in the TV show for over 100 episodes. Blakeley is another you may recognise from TV other than the original show due to his appearances on the likes of Emmerdale.
Annie Beck makes an early appearance cleaning up the pub. She is wonderfully played by Erin Geraghty who celebrates her 50th year as a professional actor this year. Her career started as a child dancer in a film with Julie Andrews.
We get a fleeting sight of Mrs Hoon played by Elizabeth Hammond and Aidan McGuire played fantastically by Callum O'Neill, who lists The War of the Worlds as one of his many theatre credits. A small part of Alan is played by Chris Lockley, who is also a director. The final character to be introduced is James Sheedy played by Jason Griffiths who has played in TV shows such as The Bill. He introduces himself as a Scotland Yard policeman.
The second half of the show brings the usual twist in the tale as we are kept guessing about the ending with some humour along the way. The whole show is well directed by Keith Myers and production is managed by Dave Hamblett, with Spencer K Higgins providing Stage Management along with his deputy Chris Rooney. Set and costume design comes from Judy Reaves who has had murals commissioned by Westminster Council. Lighting Design comes from Chris Davey, Emma Glover is the wardrobe supervisor for the show and has worked on shows such as Ripper Street from the BBC.
All in all this is a great show for those who recall the TV show and those who just like a family night at the theatre. I took my 9 year old son along and he thoroughly enjoyed the show even though he has never seen the original TV show. If you can get along to see this show I would recommend you do.
Reviewer: Cory Coxon
Reviewed: 25th April 2016