The Galton & Simpson Playhouse – Review

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By Sarah Morgan

Mention the names Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and if you’re a fan of classic comedy, iconic titles such as Steptoe and Son and Hancock’s Half Hour spring to mind.

Steptoe was, of course, born in 1962 via Comedy Playhouse, an anthology series of half-hour, standalone stories, some of which were eventually turned into series, including Till Death Us Do Part, The Liver Birds, Last of the Summer Wine and Are You Being Served?.

It ran on BBC One, but in 1977, Galton and Simpson were commissioned by Yorkshire Television to create a new, seven-part Playhouse series. It may have dropped the ‘Comedy’ aspect of the title, but these are nevertheless amusing vignettes featuring some great stars.

The Galton & Simpson Playhouse Review de la tour

John Bird and Frances De La Tour play lovers in ‘Variations on a Theme’

“Amusing time-passer”

Whether any of them had the potential to become long-running series is doubtful, but each edition is an amusing time-passer – but be warned, the easily offended may find some of the language and opinions expressed by the characters a little archaic.

Arthur Lowe and Anton Diffring star in the first instalment, ‘Car Along the Pass’, with Lowe delivering a Captain Mainwaring-style performance as a pompous British holidaymaker who manages to upset everyone while stuck in a cable car.

‘Swap You One of These for One of Those’ stars Richard Briers as a married office worker whose attempts to attend a wife-swapping party organised by his colleague Henry McGee don’t go quite a planned.

The Galton & Simpson Playhouse Review cover“Testament to the duo’s skills”

‘Cheers’ – which bears no similarities to the US sitcom of the same name – is the best of the bunch. Charles Gray and Freddie Jones are simply delightful as flatmates whose lifestyle is turned on its head when one of them announces he’s getting married. Doctor Who fans should look out for Nicholas ‘The Brigadier’ Courtney in a small role.

Roy Kinnear plays a flight attendant whose wife has left him in ‘Naught For Thy Comfort’, John Bird and Frances De La Tour play lovers in the clever and witty ‘Variations on a Theme’ and Leonard Rossiter drives everyone mad as a know-it-all in ‘I Tell You It’s Burt Reynolds’.

Last but not least is ‘Big Deal in York City’, starring Warren Mitchell as a man who wins big at the races and then loses the lot while playing poker on the train on his way back to London. But is everything really as it seems?

Simpson retired from scriptwriting a year after the series was broadcast, so if nothing else, it stands as a testament to the duo’s skills and is a must for fans of their more famous work.

‘The Galton and Simpson Playhouse’ is released on DVD by Network

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