In the second half, their roles are reversed – Frank has been out for work for five years and has applied for a job as a salesman in a department store. Alan is the junior manager who has to interview him. The plot descends into farce for a while, but then regains its composure to reach the rather inevitable ending – although I won’t say anymore about that, I don’t want to give away the story line. Stephen Tompkinson first came to prominence in the early 1990s when he appeared in the cult comedy Drop the Dead Donkey. At that time he seemed like a natural to fill the late Richard Beckinsale’s shoes and I expected him to become a regular in TV comedy shows.
Unfortunately his career took a different path and he appeared more regularly in lightweight family dramas. It was good to see him return to comedy, he hasn’t lost any of his comic timing – although his over-the-top attempt at a Yorkshire accent wasn’t great, his Lancastrian roots shone through.
There are some really interesting ideas underpinning Sign of the Times, but sadly it does not go on to develop any of them as well as it could do. There are also some great witty lines, the audience was roaring with laughter at times; as well as moments of great pathos, when your heart went out to Frank, a man under no delusions about his own limited talents.
Sign of the Times runs until Saturday 6th June. If you are a Tomkinson fan, it is worth seeing.