It's 1736, George II is on the throne, witchcraft laws are being appealed and the British Empire was starting to take shape. It's also the age of the highwayman; thieves who terrorised the roads on horseback and with pistols, ready to cry out "stand and deliver, your money or your life!" Its this lone ranger figure, improbably romanticised over the years, which is the focus of Tobacco Tea Theatre Company's Stand and Deliver.
Good fun and a pleasant enough distraction for an afternoon's entertainment, but ultimately no more satisfying than a packet of crisps.
If you were to imagine what an afternoon in the theatre would be like, this wouldn't be far off the mark. There are elaborate costumes which wouldn't look out of place at a fancy dress party, brilliantly choreographed fight scenes and plenty of props. After a slow start, it picks up pace and allows the cast to have plenty of fun with Christopher Cutting's script. The entire cast bring real life and energy to the stage. They have been well directed as their timing is impeccable and they know exactly how to wring a laugh by pulling an amusing grimace or producing a knowing retort. They're good company and its easy to enjoy time spent in their presence.
Yet, it felt like something was missing. The satire lacked real bite, the action lacked real gore, the jokes provoked smirks and smiles rather than belly laughs. For the most part, it seemed sanguine enough for family entertainment, befitting of its afternoon slot. After all, a lot of the comedy is physical and key jokes centre round a taxidermy lobster and hobby horses. A scene in a carriage where the two occupants bounced up and down with vigour, reflecting the bumpy ride and poor suspension, was hardly original but still managed to be very funny. However, other scenes were surprising violent (although red light stands in for blood, no need to fear if gore isn't for you) and the language was occasionally strong enough to dissuade any parents from wanting to bring younger viewers. It felt like the production always chose the middle of the road way, attracting a broad audience, but without truly pleasing anyone. Perhaps it was just a bit too ambitious with such a large collection of characters and alternating storylines.
As soon as I left the Rialto and stepped into the warm Saturday sunshine, the show seemed to melt from my mind like a dream. Good fun and a pleasant enough distraction for an afternoon's entertainment, but ultimately no more satisfying than a packet of crisps. Enjoyable enough at the time, but quickly forgotten.