Mr Crampton's irrepressible and entertainingly taunting son, Phil, is a sitcom adolescent ahead of his time, as well as seeming like a droll variation on early Freudian cases with his love-hate attitude to his father. You can still sense the cutting edge of some of the quips he and his siblings make when they shrug off their mother's sudden outburst of strictures, noting she's making the most of the 19th century while she still can.
Walter, the soothing hotel waiter played by Edward Fox, maintains an air of impeccable propriety. Yet he has wonderful sly digs at the class divide as well, explaining his philosophy of life - "if you'll forgive me for having such a thing, Sir" - to the family's tetchy patriarch.
Crampton, in turn, sounds like a forebear of Fathers For Justice, emotionally arguing that his wife robbed him of parental contact, before he starts farcically crying that he's now suffering molestation - being intolerably badgered by his own teenagers.
Alas, you often have to strain to see this play's liveliness through Hall's under-directed production. The period costumes look staid and dull, with insufficient hints of the children's liberal upbringing in Madeira. The pukka accents make everyone seem stiff as well. Matthew Dunphy fails to convey Phil's sparky charm and Ryan Kiggell bemusingly lacks sex appeal as the rakish suitor, Valentine. Still, Diana Quick, as Crampton's spouse, has some fine comic timing. William Chubb is quietly droll as her long-suffering barrister. Michael Mears is unexpected fun as the QC - a quirky deus ex machina - and Fox is unusually lovable, even if he milks his lines.
Hall has also revived Beckett's Waiting For Godot, 50 years after his legendary première which shifted British Theatre towards the poetic, symbolic and Absurdist. A row has erupted, with the Barbican blocking Hall's plan for a London transfer before they import the same play from Dublin in 2006. London fans of this modern classic where, famously, nothing happens twice, would surely have flocked to twin productions. But actually it's hard to get hugely excited about what is essentially a reproduction of Hall's 1990's Old Vic staging, with some over-reverential delivery of Beckett's bleak philosophising. Still, the blue-box setting has winning stark simplicity. The tramps are warmly and strongly differentiated, with James Laurenson's Vladimir seeming like a protective and more conscientious older sibling to Alan Dobie's wizened imp of an Estragon. Also, seen alongside the Shaw, Terence Rigby's patriarchal but crumpling Pozzo and Richard Dormer's enslaved Lucky are an unforgettable portrait of Victorian hierarchies collapsing before your eyes.
'You Never Can Tell': touring to 24 October, 01225 448844Reuse content