I can't recall yet seeing a stage show derived from a TV series that has ever been a wholly satisfactory venture, though perhaps, like the pile of Armstrong & Miller merchandise on offer tonight, a live arm is deemed a necessary accoutrement to a brand, as much as it is an exercise in going back to one's original roots.
Though affected by technical problems on a night that perhaps came too early in the run for a press showing, it's difficult to see how much better this collection of tepid sketches can get. A self-conscious reference is made to the fact that the duo's rude-boy RAF men ("he is like, in the plane and shit" being an example of their vernacular) is their best sketch. These airborne "brederen" also get the most use of the stage, including larking about in mini spitfire costumes while a screen behind them depicts a dogfight.
There is no doubt that wing men Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller radiate a warm bonhomie when they are together, but they are not the greatest character actors. Miller's Jilted Jim may cross Rob Brydon's social outcast Keith Barrett and Charlie Higson's socially inept Colin Hunt, but he only gets half the return on his creation. Meanwhile, the duo's female guises, selling overpriced organic food at a village fete or sex aids from a shop called Boudoir d'Amour, are sub-Little Britain.
A Blue Peter sketch that discredits the apologies those in the public eye give for debauched behaviour has at least a focus to it, as does the game show How Many Hats? that derides the long-windedness of the upper class, although I sometimes wonder if toffs only now exist to give sketch troupes something to rub up against.
With their one flagship sketch and their enduring student revue feel, I found myself wondering why Armstrong and Miller seem to want to end up as the Newman and Baddiel of the 2000s, especially as back in the 90s even Newman and Baddiel didn't want to be Newman and Baddiel.