Complete History of the BBC[author-post-rating] (2/5 Stars)

I was expecting more from The Complete History of the BBC (Abridged) than the title suggested, but unfortunately this show is exactly what it says on the tin. Having seen the performance I am now thoroughly equipped to sit an exam on the key moments in the BBC’s history, although ask me anything nearer the end and I will probably not be so hot. If this were one of my school history classes it would be exciting and fun, as a performance it’s significantly lacking in any creative flair.

Props are used for a few brief moments each as we skim through various events in what could be a rather colourful history of one of the major parts of our culture. Fine, the history is ‘abridged’ – and I am thankful for it – but there’s no personality to it; I wanted more of a comment on the events we’re told about not just a presentation of information I could easily find on the internet.

Performances by Alix Cavanagh and Bob Sinfield are fussy and over the top; not necessarily bad, but a performance style that seems more suited to the era of the BBC’s inception than it is to today. I find the audience interaction with the front row slightly clichéd and cringe-worthy, however were it to include the entire audience and push itself a bit further this could be a good device to help the performance engage.

The show does have a somewhat shaky premise outside just wanting to teach us about the BBC, and that is that Terence is an old man in a shed obsessed with this institution. Dressed in his black tuxedo he’s caught up in something antiquated, nostalgic and old hat. We are told we’re in the ‘Cathode Ray Museum of Broadcasting’ but his wife soon ruins that façade by entering the shed and calling it a shed. This juxtaposition of nostalgia for the past and our televised world as it is today could be interesting, and if the show is going to be developed this would be something to work on.

Too much of the ‘plot’ is left at the peripheries; why is this man so obsessed, how does his wife really feel about this (she mocks the shed but quickly jumps into performance mode and, although she grumbles, is generally fine to go along with performing the history to this audience).

There’s something in the sense of nostalgia evoked by mentions of Muffin the Mule, Andy Pandy and Watch with Mother  – the laughs of recognition that come from the audience – that tells me this show does have some legs. Currently, though, it’s Bambi skating on ice. The Complete History of the BBC (Abridged) could do with figuring out its central idea and pushing it further. This performance should remember it is a performance, not just a rather lively lesson.

The Complete History of the BBC (Abridged) is on at The Dukebox Theatre as part of Brighton Fringe until 12 May. Tickets are available via the Brighton Fringe website.