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Heartbeat

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Three stars

If anyone fancies a glimpse of what some imaginary little Britain should remain like forever, they could do worse than take a look at this touring stage version of the phenomenally successful Sunday night TV cop show based on Nicholas Rhea's Constable series of novels. For eighteen years, after all, the Yorkshire hamlet of Aidensfield was forever stuck in a 1960s that barely swung, and where the common people doffed their cap to the local landowner while being kept in line by a succession of upright local bobbies. Crime, of course, never paid, especially if it was committed by a role-call of shifty interlopers from the fleshpots of the south.

Things appear to be changing in what amounts to a feature-length episode penned by long-serving cast member David Lonsdale, who revives his role of village buffoon David Stockwell. It's 1969, patrician landlord of the Aidensfield Arms, Oscar, is recuperating from an illness in Bridlington, and chirpy Scouse barmaid Gina has hired a jukebox. The Graduate has finally reached the local fleapit, and the neighbourhood cop shop has even had the audacity to put Matt Milburn's PC Joe Malton – a Lancastrian of all things – on the beat. All of which conspires together in a plot which somehow manages to combine David's late night rabbit poaching with the Irish Troubles.

Despite such action-packed longeurs that flit between the pub interior and the grounds of Lord Ashfordly's estate, Keith Myers' production sticks to the TV show's gently nostalgic template that also involves series veteran Steven Blakely's effete PC Geoff Younger. With society clearly collapsing elsewhere, one can only speculate on what horrors the 1970s brought to Aidensfield.

The Herald, June 30th 2016

ends

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