It’s such a great title for a show, The Bastard Children of Remington Steele. That’s why I wanted to see it. Not being much of a watcher of television, though, I didn’t know that Remington Steele was a real thing. Or an imaginary real thing. Whatever. I just loved that title..
Both feelings – an enjoyment of the writing and a slight confusion over what it all meant – held true when watching the production itself. Billed as theatre, it played more like a sketch show, and while all the sketches were linked to the same story, linked sketches do not necessarily a play make. Nevertheless, the text, written by Old Trunk co-director, Sadie Hasler, is tightly edited, snappy and very funny.
Three orphaned children – Sylvia, Cassie and Michael – grow-up together in St Agatha’s Convent Orphanage. They discover a rather peculiar forth child, Beatrice, living alone in the orphanage’s attic. Beatrice, the daughter of an MI5 agent (killed off duty, in absurd circumstances), has buried the memories of her real father’s painful demise and, as a youthful coping mechanism, convinced herself that her father is none other than Remington Steele.
Beatrice is emphatic that Remington will soon arrive to take her away from the orphanage (from letters she’s received from him, written on loo roll in mouse droppings…), and that the other children should all practice their “welcoming ceremony” to greet him when he does arrive. Of course, being an imaginary father, Remington never comes and the children find various means of dealing with the loss of their respective parents. In the end, they still have each other, and a happy ending of sorts, thanks to an obliging cat and a bit of good luck.
In terms of set-piece scenes, there are some absolute corkers. Particularly hilarious are the children’s re-enactments of episodes of Remington Steele for Beatrice’s amusement, and the scene where Michael’s gangster father drops him at the orphanage with a letter of explanation written entirely in Cockney rhyming slang. The performances from all four are sterling and wide-ranging – it feels as if they’re having a ball on stage and the audience responds by laughing often and loudly.
In the end, though, it’s difficult to tell whether the aim of The Bastard Children of Remington Steele is to say something about loss, childhood and family ties – which I don’t think it does with much success – or to make people laugh through the cleverness of its sketches – which it does very well. While the strength of the performances and the warmth of the wit meant that this was a very enjoyable hour in the dark, it’s just not something that will linger long in the mind after the laughs have faded.