Ben Elton is considering a Blackadder play

Tuesday 30th April 2024, 8:34am

Blackadder. Image shows from L to R: Captain Kevin Darling (Tim McInnerny), Captain Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson), General Melchett (Stephen Fry), Baldrick (Tony Robinson), Lieutenant George Barleigh (Hugh Laurie)
  • Ben Elton has indicated he'd like to create a new original Blackadder stage show, if co-writer Richard Curtis was interested
  • "Not an adaptation of episodes, it would be an original play"; "I'm very clear in my mind we do not want to f'up something as loved as Blackadder"
  • The play would likely feature a new cast, however Elton said of the original stars: "If they want to be in it, that's up to them"

Blackadder co-writer Ben Elton would be up for writing a new stage play for the characters, if Richard Curtis was interested.

Speaking in an interview in The Sun, he said: "A Blackadder play, if Richard was keen on it, I'd be interested. Not an adaptation of episodes, it would be an original play.

"When I wrote Upstart Crow I did three series and three Christmas specials for TV, which was a load of writing, but I'm proud of the fact I then did an original play. If we were to do that with Adder it would be the same."

Elton was speaking in light of a version of Fawlty Towers launching in the West End and the success of the musical stage version of Only Fools And Horses.

Those two stage shows involve different casts than their TV counterparts. Asked if he could persuade the original Blackadder cast - Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry - to appear in the new production, he replied: "If they want to be in it, that's up to them. But with Blackadder, there's four figures who have a say in it: Me, Richard, Rowan and John Lloyd, who was the producer. So if anything happens, it's down to us. Who knows if we could ever make it happen."

The Blackadder cast last reunited in 1999 for the one-off special Blackadder Back and Forth. Revivals have been periodically mooted since then, however nothing has materialised. Stephen Fry did return to his Lord Melchett character for a Comic Relief sketch in 2020.

Elton comments: "There were a couple of efforts to do a bit of Adder, with mixed results, and I'm very clear in my mind we do not want to f'up something as loved as Blackadder by going back to it."

He has however ruled out returning to The Young Ones, citing the death of Rik Mayall in 2014 as the reason. "It's a legacy Rik has a large part of and it's not something I could do without him. Plus I don't think it could work as a musical or play."

The performer and writer also commented that studio audience sitcoms should be thriving on television, 'not consigned to a bygone era', as they spread "nothing but happiness and goodwill".

"For some reason that art form fell into critical disrepute. There was some horrible snobbery that developed for any situation sitcom, which was lampooned in Extras where [Ricky Gervais] was in a show and he had a catchphrase."

"Now we're being invited to adore the work of the single camera artists without laughter and filmed on location. The idea that one bloke holding a camera is intrinsically more artistic than a group of people forming a community to make a piece of comedy just doesn't cut it for me."

Ben Elton

Elton was talking to The Sun to promote Authentic Stupidity, his new stand-up tour which runs across September to November.

On the topic of 'cancel culture', he said: "I believe you can still say what you like. A lot of people think I was the start of woke because I was aggressively against sexist and racist comedy in the Eighties. Good comedy is based on truth, it's based on what we're like, how we feel, our embarrassments. Bad comedy relies on a large group laughing at a small group.

Commenting on claims by Ricky Gervais that his detractors are trying to silence him, he added: "I saw Ricky's recent special on Netflix and it's just not true. He hasn't been cancelled. Nobody has told him he can't make a joke about disabled people. If he just did the joke it probably wouldn't get a laugh, but having first said he wasn't allowed to say this, he gets a laugh. But of course he's allowed to say it - he's on f*ing Netflix. I admire a lot about Ricky Gervais but I do not subscribe that comedy has been ruined by wokeness. There are examples when a small vociferous group have said, 'I object to that joke therefore you have no right to say it', and that is wrong.

"You do not have a right not to be offended, and if you object to something you can leave or ask for your money back, but I don't think you should be closing the show down.

"Comedy is in great shape. There's an awful lot of comics around - and I'm one of them."

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