'Allo 'Allo

Date 19th October 2018
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village hall
Type of Production Play
Director Mike Dawes

Report

Author: Jon Fox

This much loved show featuring nearly all the characters from the TV comedy that spawned it, has become a cult. Certain catch phrases, such as "you stupid woman" and "Gid moaning" are commonly used,  in jest I hasten to add, in my own household and very many other households too.  Gloriously un-PC and all the better for it!

There is comfort in familiarity and something in our British psyche relishes lampooning stereotypes. Indeed many of us find it cathartic and even addictive. As a concept then, "'Allo 'Allo!" could hardly fail. Cobham Players have not the advantage of a large theatre and a huge stage, but this rattling production is far more suited to an intimate stage with its effectively designed and used seedy French café setting. We had all the familiar café essentials; a counter, tables and chairs, drinks bar, chalk menu, coat-rack, piano and door sign marked "fermé" facing inwards.

Keith Burgess in the lead role of René Artois captured this harassed, treble-timing, but essentially decent man to a tee. Keith's performance was the heartbeat of this show and was something to behold! Jean Burgess played his stage wife Edith Melba Artois with hideous, yet thrilling comedy. The expected dreadful 'singing' was there, glorious in its discordancy. As with Panto it is imperative that all the characters on stage play their roles for real. It would be fatal to send these characters up - fortunately no one did.

Alyson Pellowe was the vivacious Yvette Carte Blanche with a striking stage resemblance to Vicky Michelle in the TV show. Megan Castle acted Mimi Labonque in similar overtly flirty manner. Victoria Franklin was the fierce resistance fighter, Michelle Dubois telling us all to "Leesten very cairfully"; how could we not!!   Charlie English played Roger Leclerc for all he was worth.  

I loved Capt. Crabtree  with Graham Budd's wonderfully mangled English French, such charisma too.  George Marcall and Harry Sadler were two "I say chaps" English Flight Lieutenants Fairfax and Carstairs respectively. Another outstanding performance was given by Richard Barrett as Italian Capt. Alberto Bertorelli, all lustful charisma and panache!   And a wonderful accent moreover!

Hayley Clines as Helga Geerhart stripped to her undies, a swastika on her bottom exciting the violin playing Herr Otto Flick (Stuart Evans) into the bargain. Both players did their characters proud. John Kingston was suitably camp as Lieut Hubert Gruber, lusting after René. Brian Hulme was General von Schmelling, doing well. Jeff Wightwick gave Col. Kurt von Strohm a less realistic German accent.  Jeff is, of course, a talented director, but German accents are perhaps not his forte.

I thought the costumes were overall of good quality, though the German military ones looked rather frail by comparison to others.

Gill Pepperrell was at the piano doing the music full justice and Karen Budd with Elaine Kingston had a believable cameo as French peasants. George Marcall also played a German soldier.

There was much high comedy throughout;  the mousetraps for Bertorelli's wandering hands; the Stripper scene and music for Helga and Herr Flick at his fiddle looking on;  Edith and both waitresses' song Fifi (which was a highlight);  Helga and Herr Flick's "jacket and stick" routine; the bomb in the sausage;  Bertorelli's hilarious Hitler, complete with false nose;  Michelle as a nun in the bedroom; and finally the mass Hitler impersonations.

There were a few minor niggles, though I counted only two prompts - very few for a wordy production like this. Some accents were far better than some others, but the show flowed to good effect and there was a good deal of audience hilarity, always a reassuring sign in comedy.

Lighting was used well, as was sound, under the efficient stewardship of Stephen Farr and Chris Cathles respectively. Mary Taylor did an important job on costumes which, the German military ones apart, were rather good.

Director Mike Dawes had clearly worked very assiduously with his large cast and together they did this iconic show full justice and sent a highly amused audience and this reviewer home in a fulfilled and happy mood.