Rags to riches

Thursday, March 6, 2008 by

The Curse of Steptoe is the first in BBC4′s The Curse of Comedy season. And I’ve just finished watching it on preview disc. It’s wonderful – Jason Isaacs (Harry H Corbett) and Phil Davis (Wilfrid Brambell) nail their roles. There’s a moment early on when the two actors are in a read-through for the pilot episode. Corbett is working “off book” and giving it the full-on “you dirty old man” accent. Brambell is still reading from the script, and uncomfortable at the prospect of turning on his “‘Arold!” performance. But then Corbett gets in his face so much, it’s as though he can’t help it. Suddenly he switches on the sneer, and Phil Davis is old man Steptoe. It’s great.

The film documents the actors’ frosty relationship, with both each other, and the show that simultaneously made and ruined them. It’s beautifully shot, cleverly written (“The father’s just a feed, really”, Corbett tells his wife) and – well – just loads better than the BBC recent trails make it appear. 

Catch it on Wednesday 19 March on BBC4.


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