first night

'Allo 'Allo

Fergus Leathem is not entirely convinced by a stage play of the BBC comedy classic

 Now, I love ‘Allo ‘Allo as much as the next man. Tongue firmly in cheek and sometimes downright inappropriate, it sums up everything that a good sitcom should be. As a result, it was with a mix of high expectation and trepidation, that I approached the theatre to see the final Ooook! production of the year. Ostensibly ‘Allo ‘Allo should work for Ooook! Previous shows I’ve seen, and very much enjoyed, have had a glorious irreverence that has spelt success for them in the past.

 For those not familiar with ‘Allo ‘Allo, in the series, and indeed the play itself, our downtrodden protagonist, Rene, owns a café in Nazi occupied France. Nazi invasion, however, is the least of his worries. He’s having not one, but two, affairs, harbouring fugitive British airmen, collaborating with the resistance, and also hiding valuable artifacts, most notably the ‘Fallen Madonna with the big boobies by Van Klomp’. Fingers in pies does not do it justice. The episodes roar along with a heady mix of slapstick, lurid innuendo and broader stereotypes than would ever be permitted today.

This particular Ooook! Production, however, lacked a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. (Don't worry, that's my last Franglish pun). It wasn’t that the show was bad; far from it. The show had excellent set, impeccable costumes and slick scene changes, but it just, well, lacked a certain energy. A staged comedy, especially one of a much loved sitcom, needs to race along at the pace of a runaway Staff Car, but at times this production felt sluggish.

 David Drysdale as Rene gave a solid performance, although never quite harnessed the manic energy necessary to make us fully sympathize with how utterly ludicrous both Rene and the scenario he finds himself in are. Georgia Cassarino gave a suitably weather beaten performance as Edith, consistently harassing Rene and catching him with one of Yvette or Mimi (Jess Batterbury and Anna Bailey respectively).  Particular highlights came in the form of the two airmen in the little and large combo of Reesha Dyer and Alistair Linsell, as well as Murray Adcock’s uncanny performance as Officer ‘Good Moaning!’ Crabtree.

 There were some moments of good humour, with gaffes related to an inflatable Hitler, exploding knockwurst and countless references to parts of the human anatomy, all of which kept the audience sufficient enthused throughout the evening.

 So, whilst Ooook!’s final production of the academic year was perhaps not ‘magnifique’, it was still a pleasant way to round off another year in Durham.


24 June 2011

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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