|Date||23rd April 2013|
|Society||Ponteland Repertory Society|
|Venue||The Memorial Hall, Ponteland|
|Type of Production||Play|
Author: Michael L. Avery
Anyone remembering and enjoying the BBC situation comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo comes to this show with much expectation and a heap of goodwill. The script, by those masters of sit-com, Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, manages to encapsulate the most memorable “bits” from a show that was a weekly highlight for ten years from 1982 to 1992. Obviously, we do not see the original cast, who were so much a part of the show. So this cast has an immediate hurdle to negotiate. Will they suffer by comparison? Happily, the answer is “No”.
For any youngsters with no knowledge of the show, a synopsis may be appropriate. The action takes place in World War II, in Nazi-occupied France at Rene Artois’ cafe in the small town of Nouvion. John Hutton plays ‘Rene.’ Apart from his French accent, he is a straight man amidst the chaos caused by local townspeople, their Nazi occupiers and the French Resistance. Fortunately, Rene (something of a sex god) is surrounded by a cast of eccentrics. Just the names of the ladies, believing he is their one and only, will give you an idea. He spends much time avoiding the attentions of Joanne Clark (‘Mimi Labonq’), Carol Emerson (‘Yvette Carte-Blanche’) and Pam Hutton (‘Michelle’ of the Resistance) whilst trying to keep them apart!
He also steers a neat course between Mark Armstrong (German ‘Lieutenant Gruber’) and Kevin Janetts (Italian ‘Captain Bertorelli’). Gruber is, to say the least, precious and also fancies Rene. Bertorelli, being Italian, fancies anything in a skirt. Okay so far? Well, into the mix we must add Jason Long as ‘Herr Flick’ of the Gestapo and his sidekick Emma Cash as sexy ‘Helga.’ And, of course, there is Gavin Redhead as ‘Officer Crabtree’, a British spy disguised as a French policeman performing the most excruciating Franglais.
All the old tag-lines are here. As Michelle comes into contact with Rene, a shuddering “Oh, Rene”; accident prone Bertorelli’s “Whadda mistake-a to make-a”, the strangely worrying relationship between Herr Flick and Helga! By the time the play ran its course, tears of laughter ran down my cheeks. My favourite bit? Bertorelli disappearing behind the bar, a la David Jason in that classic “Only Fools …” moment. Perhaps you had to be there.
For this show, The Memorial Hall had a special stage built into the hall giving room for all the characters and the café to spread out. It was very effective, making the audience feel part of the action. I cannot finish without mentioning a cameo from Jonathan Cash, drawn from the audience onto the stage to help populate the café, only to have a bottle of wine accidentally poured over him. He took it very well and almost stayed in character! An excellent night’s entertainment.