One of TV's most popular Sunday evening essential viewing series has been written for the stage by David Lonsdale who played David Stockwell in the series and also performs as the character in the stage version. Although the series ended in 2010 after 377 episodes it is still as popular with repeats regularly shown. Unfortunately the stage version is not likely to get you rushing to watch again.
The play starts in the Aidensfield Arms with Annie Beck (Erin Geraghty) the cleaner going about her daily tasks when Bernie Scripps (David Horne) arrives wanting to be let in. The dialogue between the two is often lost as they have their backs to the audience and much of the scene is a shouted conversation between the two characters off stage leaving the audience looking at an empty bar. As an opening scene it simply did not grip the attention at all. The revolving set is cleverly designed with the pub setting on one side and various outdoor scenes on the other, but as the story unfolds there are far too many short scenes (23 in total) and the constant switching between them becomes tedious, even the brief music from 60's songs during this does not help. Heartbeat on TV does involve many short acts amid the main storyline but the transition to stage simply doesn't work. Just as things might start to get interesting your attention is taken elsewhere. Behind and above the revolving set is a screen showing clips of the Yorkshire village that Heartbeat is set in.
A stranger arrives in the village, Aidan McGuire (Callum O'Neill) a young Irishman looking for accommodation and for some reason evoking suspicion from the locals from the start. Hot on his heels another stranger, James Sheedy (Jason Griffiths) again arousing curiosity as to why he is there. PC Joe Malton (Matt Milburn) plays a very small part in the stage production although a main character on TV whilst PC Geoff Younger (Steven Blakeley) appears in almost every other scene. Blakeley is the only other star with Lonsdale who actually appeared in Heartbeat on the TV and between them, performing as the same TV characters, they supply many of the comedic moments of the show with their bumbling antics. The highlight of the show is Alfred the dog, brilliantly performed, especially for a stuffed dog! His appearance brought the most applause and laughs of the evening. Landlady Gina Bellamy (Carly Cook) is hard to adjust to at first but by the second half I was warmed to her character and she gave a credible performance throughout.
I won't go into anymore details about the plot as if you are going along to see this you will need something to keep your interest in the show. My expectations were high and I was truly disappointed in what had the potential to be a captivating piece of theatre and possibly gaining a following such as the TV series. There was not a standing ovation at the end of this show from anyone.
Reviewer: Lorna Weekes
Reviewed: 6th June 2016
North West End Rating: ★★