|Date||19th May 2016|
|Society||In Your Face Theatre (Seaham)|
|Venue||Seaham Town Hall|
|Type of Production||Play|
Author: Peter Oliver
Listen very carefully I shall say this only once, “In Your Face Theatre's” interpretation of the BBC’s hilarious sitcom “Allo, Allo” tells the story of café owner Rene and his wife Edith. Set in the French Town of Nouvion during the German occupation Café owner Reno Artois gets caught up in a number of chaotic situations including helping the local resistance with the repatriation of a British airman hidden in his café cellar, hiding a priceless portrait of The Fallen Madonna with the big boobies stolen by the Nazis concealed in a sausage and attempting to keep his love affairs with his two waitresses from his ever vigilant wife Edith as well as the many Hitler’s including an inflatable one, Basques and swastika underwear, (don’t ask you should have been there!). The group had given much thought to the detail of the staging to make it look as authentic as possible, given that space is very limiting, creating both Rene’s café and the Nazi HQ. I must also mention the costumes which were also effective and helped with the characterisation.
For me when recreating an adaptation of such a popular sitcom, there is very little room for creativity as so many people know the story line and know what to expect, so the creativity must come from the cast’s interpretation of the characters and this is where Denise Page as the director brought her skills and talent. Comedy like this is not easy to direct especially when it is so well known but from the performance that I saw I can imagine that Denise must have had so much fun directing this cast and it was clear that every member of the cast got enormous pleasure from performing it.
Jeff Page excelled as Rene from the moment he delivered his opening dialogue he not only set the scene but had the audience hooked in and made the most of his delicious comedy lines his characterisation as the anxious café owner was so endearing, but the highlight for me was the scene with the sausage it was unbelievable funny. Anne Malpass gave a fine performance as Rene’s tone deaf wife Edith, particularly with her off key cabaret number and I loved the bread rolls in her hair. Rene’s would be lovers Yvette played by Yvonne Newton and Mimi played by Sarah Booth were delightfully spirited both gave strong performances adding to the chaos and humour. Helen Abraham gave a credible performance as Michelle, the resistance leader, noted for her constant remark “I shall say zis only once”. Stephen Stokoe was exemplary as the formidable but farcical Gestapo officer, Herr Otto Flick, excellent characterisation (loved the tango scene and as the usherette in the cinema scene), acting at its best. Alexandra Cox gave a confident performance as Helga his German confidante and lover. Enjoyable too were the comic duo of Colonel Strohm, excellently played by David Jackson and womanising Captain Alberto Bertorelli played by Valor Kevin St Clair-Bell, fantastic performers and good characterisation. Nathan Vose as Lieutenant Gruber had great stage presence and his flirtation scenes with Rene were well performed and funny. As the British spy Crabtree, disguised as the vowel mangling French gendarme, Jonathon Ryan gave us a fantastic performance he never lost his character and his scenes with Rene especially with the blow up Hitler doll were hilarious. Michael Coulson as General Von Schmelling provided a good supporting role and added to the humour as did Peter Round who, as the parrot salesman, brought some very well timed dialogue. Special mention must also go to the airman Richy Lennox Petre and Liz Sergeant and Aimee Honnor as the French Peasants in cameo rolls but who added to the overall production. In Your Face Theatre gave a polished performance, excellent timing and good pace which kept going throughout the show. The high standard of the overall performance was evidence of much hard work and dedication given to the production by this talented group. Well done to everyone involved