Director: Daisy Hale
The Drama Barn was converted into the hapless Rene Artois’ famous café in German occupied France last night in what turned out to be an excellent adaption of Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft’s stage adaption of ‘Allo ‘Allo. Combined with a brilliant cast and effective set, this is definitely a play to watch if you are a fan of the original BBC comedy.
The set and costumes were numerous but very effective and attention to detail was very good, even with the signs on the wall exuding classic ‘Allo ‘Allo charm, with such examples as the menu offering ‘Rat au Van’ and ‘Tonight’s Entertainment: Edith’ with ‘Tomorrow’s Entertainment: Edith’ directly underneath in reference to Edith’s infamous cabaret performances. Fortunately the audience didn’t have to suffer a song and dance routine and require cheese earplugs. Admittedly I this is the first stage adaption of ‘Allo ‘Allo I have seen, but I’ve always been a keen fan of the TV series so while I didn’t have a previous stage version to compare to, it holds up very well against the TV version indeed.
The entire cast must be congratulated on their performances, even if Charles Deane’s accent as the Colonel isn’t exactly German but his scenes more than make this up for with the comedicly lewd Captain Alberto played by Michael Smith. Ross Telfer plays an extremely convincing Rene, complete with his flirtatious affairs with his two waitresses Mimi and Yvette, played brilliantly by Hannah Forsyth and Amy Warren.
However, run away performances from Herr Flick and Lt. Gruber nearly steal the show. Ross Cronshaw is absolutely brilliant as Gestapo officer Herr Flick, with his Tango Solo; Swastika decorated Nazi issue exercise shorts and hilarious stare. Providing more light-hearted comic relief is Josh Welch as the distinctly camp Lt. Hubert Gruber, who has a huge crush on Rene and often walks into Rene and Officer Crabtree (Hugh Cornish) in somewhat compromising positions, one including Crabtree with his trousers to his ankles and Rene bending over him wielding an especially large knackwurst sausage. Cornish plays homage to Gruber’s character with references to ‘my little tank’ known as Hubert Jr while adding his own twist reminscient of Graham Norton and it works absolutely brilliantly.
The play is split broadly into two parts, the first revolving around the real and fake portraits of the ‘Fallen Madonna with ze big boobies by van Klomp’ which is hidden in a knackwurst sausage for the Colonel and Capt Alberto who plan to sell it after the war. Unbeknown to them, Edith (Abigail Hirst) and Rene are also planning to sell it when the war ends and give the Colonel a forgery. In the mix, Herr Flick has been ordered to acquire it on behalf of Hitler but keep it for himself and his assistant/wife-to-be Helga, and General Von Schmelling (Alex Davidson) plans to present it personally to Hitler in return for a medal. My only qualm with this scene is the lack of intrigue from Von Schmelling into why Herr Flick leaves with what is clearly a copy of the ‘Fallen Madonna with ze Big Boobies’ when it is something he is after. Alberto’s party trick closes the scene, pulling a sheet from under some glasses for Schmelling, but with a hilariously folorn expression exclaims ‘whata mistake to make ah?’ when yet another copy of the painting appears underneath the tablecloth.
The second half is about the attempted assassination of Hitler when he comes to visit the troops in the area, with schemes from Herr Flick, the Colonel and Alberto along with the Resistance implicating Rene to try and capture Hitler, ending the play with a room of both fake and inflatable Hitlers, which is played off as a heroic attempt to avoid said assassination.
All in all, this is a brilliant version of ‘Allo ‘Allo, laden with tributes to the original series, with classic lines such ‘Please listen carefully. I shall say zis only once’ from Michelle (Becky Goodwin) and Sam Went as Leclerc’s ‘it is I, Leclerc!’ along with the small but funny appearances from the very British Airmen hidden in the cellar mixed in to what ends up as a continously flowing and wonderfully executed play. It is difficult to mention everything, as everyone plays each part so well, with even the intervals and set changes being a joy to watch.