People can be sensitive about how they are described. Arthur Bostrom, famous for his role as Officer Crabtree in ‘Allo ‘Allo, raises this point in Are You Being Murdered? It’s his new solo show based around the classic British sitcom, Are You Being Served? and is written by David Semple of Father Brown fame.
The appeal is in relishing a genre from a bygone age
His character, James Button, sees himself as a supporting artist and despises the term ‘extra’, after all, could the show go on without him? He’s clearly not the leading man; that might come one day, but for now, he’s glad of the work and happy ‘to be invisible, inscrutable, and not to pull focus from the stars’. Thus he swans around the hat counter at the famous store, interacting with the celebrities, going up and down in the lift and making observations about the proceedings. We meet Powder-puff Pam, Huge-hands Henry, Warm-up Willie, Glory-hole Graham until eventually events take a surprising turn when another guy on the set is mysteriously murdered and Button finds himself playing the amateur sleuth in a bid to get to the bottom of what’s happened.
On a delightfully cosy set that is warmly lit, Bostrom cuts an imposing figure at 1.93m., but it is the precise enunciation, perfect projection and well-timed delivery that stands out. There’s also a delicate campness, that is essential to anything that hails from John Inman territory, which adds to the fun, and there are a good few laugh-out-loud moments in a show that sustains its humour throughout.
It would be possible to enjoy this performance without knowing about Are You Being Served?, but much of it would be lost and the appeal is in relishing a genre from a bygone age and reliving the style of the show, but it’s by no means ground-breaking.