Review: The Last of the Duty Free, Lyceum Theatre

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Eric Chappell’s Duty Free was one of the surprise TV hits of the 1980s with 17 million viewers regularly tuning in to see the holiday-based sitcom of sun, sangria and sexual frustration.

And now 30 years later, three of the original cast - Keith Barron, Gwen Taylor and Neil Stacy - are recalled to Duty to reprise their respective roles on the stage as would-be philanderer David, his ever-suspicious wife Amy, and Robert, the no-nonsense military-type husband of David’s lust interest, Linda.

After David bumps into Linda (Carol Royle) all these years later, they conspire to meet in the same Spanish hotel to finally consummate their unfinished business, but before you can say olé, first Amy, then Robert, are checking in to check up on their respective spouses. Cue a rather tame sequence of farcical scenes as a young honeymoon couple in the hotel get the wrong end of the piñata stick and help stir up old rivalries between the two couples.

With Mexborough-born Barron now 79 and Gwen a nevertheless sprightly 75, the premise of septegenarian bedhopping is however strained if not totally incredible. And while Chappell is one of my comedy writing heroes with Rising Damp and Only When I Laugh to his credit, at 81 himself it may be said the San Miguel has finally gone a bit flat with a feeble plot and too few gags, many of them on the lame side or harking back to a bygone era.

To be fair, there is still plenty of chemistry between the undoubtedly talented Keith and Gwen, and it was great to see their marital vitriol of old bursting forth, often resulting in some laugh-out loud moments. And Neil Stacy (who hardly seems to have aged) is the comic tour de force as he was for me first time round.

Indeed, if the script and joke rate were upgraded, this production might be an ideal destination, but at the moment it’s not so much a five-star in Marbella as a two-star B&B in Grimsby.