Peter Fleming: Have You Seen? @ Heroes, Dragonfly
Tom Burgess' energetic and sympathetic tale of a retired kids’ TV creator is worth a watch
Peter Fleming is bouncing back. The BBC may have destroyed his archive of kids’ shows from the 70s and unceremoniously shown him the door, but that’s nothing a trip down memory lane can’t fix. Animatedly and precisely performed by Tom Burgess, Have You Seen? is a magic roundabout of odd conceits and characters that is sometimes crackerjack and occasionally drops a clanger.
There is more than a whiff of Partridge about the idea, although Fleming lives on a makeshift raft rather than in Linton Travel Tavern. His previous projects, too, would not be out of place at a cheesy lunch meeting: Professor Zany’s Mad Laboratory; The Boy Who Went to Hell; Brian the Eccentric Cat. If these titles alone inspire a giggle, then you will be perfectly happy in Fleming’s madcap company, as he rattles off dozens of them.
The strength of the show is in Burgess’ warm and nuanced performance: for someone in his mid-20s, he does a remarkable job of creating a convincing portrayal of an avuncular oddball. It is a masterpiece of motor-mouthing, with Burgess very rarely pausing for breath, such is the sad excitement of Fleming when reminiscing about his life’s work. The big laughs here come from Fleming’s lo-fi recreations of his shows, in which Burgess shows a talent for impressions. His skill for comedy, though, is most evident in an extended sketch about a bicycle which exposes the patronising sexism of the time, and in a more surreal section about advertising Matey bubble bath featuring some excellent gags about seamen.
Burgess is less comfortable outside of the sketch style, and a mid-section about merchandise makes this tank engine run out of steam. Though charming, Fleming does eventually outstay his welcome (inevitable given the dynamic performance), but Have You Seen? is a vibrant hour which is certainly worth a look.
Peter Fleming: Have You Seen?, Heroes @ Dragonfly, until 25 Aug, 3.20pm, £5/PWYW