Judge Joel Pearce is now looking forward to seeing how the BBC is going to pull off Doctor Who Live.
Our reviews of Little Britain: The Complete First Series (published August 17th, 2005), Little Britain: The Complete Second Series (published July 26th, 2006), Little Britain: The Complete Third Series (published January 3rd, 2007), and Little Britain: The Complete Collection (published December 19th, 2007) are also available.
Can I get a Wiki Woo?
After a wildly successful three seasons, the Little Britain team spent a few months on the road in 2005 and 2006. Can a complex, costume-heavy, multi-character show translate well to stage? Computer says yes.
From all reports, Little Britain has pretty much taken the land of fog and tea completely by storm, transforming into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. After all, the show does demonstrate a real passion for the people of Britain, squeezed somewhere in between the gay jokes and rude stereotypes. They filmed one of the performances at the Blackpool Opera house, so that you can get in on the fun. Let's face it: Little Britain Live isn't likely to arrive on our shores anytime soon (though Australia gets a tour this year).
To an extent, Little Britain Live shouldn't work very well. A live show runs the risk of feeling a lot like a typical episode, except longer and a hell of a lot more expensive. After three series with Matt Lucas and David Walliams, though, fans of the series have more faith than that, and it's well-warranted.
The pleasure of Little Britain Live comes from the transparency between the performers and the audience. The sketches themselves, on the most part, aren't that spectacular. The Dennis Waterman sketch is the perfect example of this. I've never found these sketches to work particularly well, and I groaned when they pulled out that giant chair, and this sketch is every bit as weak as the others. The performers know that, though, and the humor comes from the interruptions to the sketch. It's a brilliant move, one that shows that these two men are willing to do anything to get a laugh, even highlight their own weaknesses.
Other sketches do work wonderfully here, though. The Marjorie Dawes sketch is delightfully shocking, thanks to the audience member weigh-in. It accomplishes something that couldn't be done on the series. Even better is the Des Kaye gameshow segment, which includes some rather shocking and invasive audience participation. Most people who see Little Britain Live will want to keep out of the first few rows if possible, but Walliams and Lucas seem to instinctively find participants that can handle the attention. There are other segments that work well without any such participation. The most impressive feat here is the speed with which the two men shift gears. I've always been impressed that these guys can play such a wide range of characters, but to go from being Carol Beer to Bubbles De Vere in two minutes is astonishing. The addition of Anthony "Giles" Head and some of the other performers from the series is icing on the low-fat cake.
The disc production is also top-rate. The picture quality is sharp and clean, and the filming drops us right into the action. It's never hard to understand the dialogue either, despite the accents and riotous laughter of the audience. A number of extras have also been included, which increase the value of the package. There are several deleted and alternate scenes, which explore the development of the live show on tour. They've tossed in an extra Andy and Lou sketch, too, filmed in Blackpool before the show. We get some commentary tracks as well, explaining things in even more depth. These extras really help to turn this from an entertaining live show to a complete DVD package. A copy of the program has also been included, so you can lie to your friends and tell them you were there if you want.
Little Britain Live is phenomenal for fans of the series. It offers a ton of laughs, extending the concept of the series to the logical next step. If you're new to the series, though, this would be a terrible place to start. It's full of in-jokes, and references to other parts of the series. I would strongly recommend hitting the show first, then return to this live performance. Make sure you do return, though, unless you get a chance to see the performance live.
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Studio: BBC Video
• Making the DVD
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