Only Fools and Horses

An affectionate, if lightweight, homage to the classic BBC sitcom with delightful performances from Tom Bennett (Del Boy) and Paul Whitehouse (Grandad). Lauren…

Only Fools and Horses - Tom Bennet

It is a daunting task to transfer a classic British  sitcom to the stage but Jim Sullivan and Paul Whitehouse's musical adaptation of one of the nation's best-loved television comedies Only Fools and Horses (Theatre Royal Haymarket) is truly lovely-jubbly!

The major characters are largely all present and correct as we revisit the Trotters of Peckham and get reacquainted with Britain's most loveable rogues. The focus of the story is on the blossoming romance between Del Boy and aspiring actress Raquel, albeit in the lead-up to Rodney and Cassandra's impending marriage.

Featuring cherished material from the TV series, the laughs, dodgy dealings and unforgettable moments to boot, this is not simply a spin-off from the original but exists in a play in its own right which will appeal to lovers of the TV series and those who have never watched one episode.

The production, though, moves in fits and starts, sometimes backfiring as it aims for pathos, sometimes over milking the script for laughs.

But Paul Sullivan (son of the late great creator of the series John Sullivan) and Paul Whitehouse serve up ample helpings of wit, pluck, graft and family loyalty. 

The script is packed full of gags–"my old dad used to get up at six in the morning to make sure my mother got to work on time!"–Del Boy, and "I've been engaged more times than a switchboard!"–again Del Boy–and all the catchphrases you'd expect beginning and ending with "this time next year we'll all be millionaires!".

There is much knees-uppery in the lively score which sounds as though it has been written by Chas and Dave. A couple of songs are indeed by the chirpy Cockneys and the late Chas Hodges collaborated on others shortly before his death. The spirit of the music is a fitting celebration of tightly bonded communities.

Tom Bennett has the right cocky assurance as the cigar-chomping Del Boy, as well as the requisite flat-cap and sheepskin jacket and his delightful way with words is still gloriously intact, while Ryan Hutton is equally splendid as Rodney, and Paul Whitehouse (who also wrote many of the songs) brings a dash of poignant humour to the role of  Grandad. Sterling support is provided by Dianne Pilkington and Pippa Duffy as Raquel and Cassandra respectively.

Caroline Jay Ranger's production emerges as an affectionate, lightweight homage to the original.

Runs until August 31.

Box office: 020 7930 8800.

Last modified: April 6, 2021

Written by 5:03 pm Theatre