Casino Royale and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – are you a fan of these new shows?

Rita Sen and Stewart Francis

THEATRE

Four Stars

REMEMBER when Casualty was the only BBC drama on telly? I certainly do, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about then the time of my birth may well be revealed as 1938 or 1936.

That’s because the only thing that wasn’t forgotten about Casualty in those days was its predecessor – the television version of The Walter Scott Night; sometimes called The Italian Job and back in its prime back in 1974.

This year, there are two new shows based on old classic series in the form of Casino Royale and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which both opened in London.

It’s really quite amazing how much the conventions of the detective drama were missed out on – remember the old Sherlock Holmes (1965-75) series in which a grumpy old bloke turns up to the coffee room every morning and tells everyone to clean their drawers? Well, that’s too much information for me.

The violence you expect, in short, is replaced by violence with comedy and banter. Again, different. And what about the supposedly anti-establishment characters who finally find ways to make everyone laugh? This in a world of ice cream vans, antiques and auto-repairmen.

Casino Royale, the first of the two new takes on the James Bond classic, is all about Masterminding a crime in Dubai and the middle-aged Alan Grant is in charge of it. His top henchman and all-round bad-boy, Raoul Silva (Paul Anderson), is slightly off-putting as he comes from a long line of difficult-to-be-persuaded men but Grant may make you forget that as he’s played by a very adept Robert Carlyle.

And the others are looking quite good too, namely Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ralph Fiennes as M. So, if you like The Italian Job, then you’ll probably like Casino Royale, although you’re unlikely to enjoy the ridiculousness of it all.

And then there’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which is also set in Dubai. Once again, the characters don’t seem to have lost their sense of humour and are willing to make jokes about some of the things that have just happened.

Brian and Danny Coogan played the lead characters Martin and Clyde, respectively, when I saw it in 1994 (and there weren’t many women, either) and while both are still around today, the roles are now played by Steve Coogan and Mark Gatiss.

The character of Vinny Varga is a bit one-dimensional, however, and you need to be ready for some good old-fashioned bonking.

•Casino Royale is at The Old Vic, London, until January 5. Lock, Stock is at the Cottesloe Theatre, London, until February 2.

•Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is at the Gielgud Theatre, London, until February 2.

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