Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Now read carefully!

I will only write this once . . .

Allo ‘Allo

Hall Green Little Theatre


LET me put my cards sur la table from the start. I am not a fan of popular sitcoms brought to life before your very eyes upon the stage.

Sitcom characters are so closely associated with the actors portraying them that unless you have the original cast you are in danger of heading into the realms of karaoke theatre – even more so when three or so original television episodes are welded together in the hope audiences will believe it is a play.

Thankfully this production avoids that and is a genuine play, specially written as a stage version by the original 'Allo 'Allo writers Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, and despite initially making the obvious comparisons with the TV characters, you soon get carried along with the glorious stupidity of it all and the Donald McGill seaside postcard innuendo.

Regular Tony O'Hagan could be Gordon Kaye's double as René Artois, proprietor of Cafe René in Nouvion in occupied France in the early 1940s. He managed a round of applause just for appearing at the start, which set the tone for the night, and he kept up the trademark cod French accent beautifully.

Mandy Yeomans as his wife Edith manages to sing in keys no piano could ever find and along with the waitresses Yvette and Mimi, played with lustful style by Jennie Almond and Gemma McCaffrey, she gives us a cabaret performance that could explain why the genre has all but died out.

Then we have Lucy Poulter's Michelle of the Resistance, who we will only mention once, and Matt Ludlam as Officer Crabtree who is disguised as a gendarme, an officer of the loo, who speaks in French so fractured even A&E could not help.

Roger Leclerc, played by Jack Haig in the TV series, has a sex change to be played by Gemma Underwood but is still the same master of disguise. the “man of a thousand faces – and every one of them the same” as René once put it.

Good moaning. Crabtree, Matt Ludlam with Michelle, played by Lucy Poulter, who will only say it once, and a worried René and his sausage played by Tony O'Hagan . . . playing René that is not the sausage.

Down in the cellar, pip pip, Oh I say, are the British airman Fairfax and Carstairs, Dean Taylor and David Hirst while leading the enemy is Col Kurt Von Strohm played, wiglet and all, by James Weetman.

His aide de camp, very camp in this case, is Lt Hubert Gruber played con-mincingly by John Bourbonneux while light relief is added by Capt Alberto Bertorelli, famous Italian war hero, so he says,  and lecher, so everyone else says, played by Sami Moghraby. Then for the life and soul of the party, the Nazi party that is, we have Herr Otto Flick, he of the stiff leg and even stiffer sense of humour, the local Gestapo chief played by James Kay, along with the victim of his affections Private Helga Geerhart, played by Sarah Lamb.

And overseeing it all is the new commander Gen Von Schmelling played with one eye, one leg and Teutonic efficiency, sort of, by Ian Flynn.

Schmelling is organising a welcome party for the one and only Adolf Hitler except he finds himself surrounded by Adolfs included a blow up version and even one with a puncture in the back room.

The plot is, should we say, daft. It involves a stolen Fallen Madonna  with the Big Boobies, by famous knocker painter Van Klomp, a forgery of the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies, one hidden by René  for Col Von Strohm and co, the other for Herr Flick and both hidden in Knackwurst sausages; then there are the two  RAF airmen hidden in the cellar, exploding cheeses, a parrot radio in a cage which brings tears to the parrot's eyes every time you make a call, a Gestapo suspender belt that Ann Summers might think of stocking in the S&M section,  and René being caught in no end of compromising positions with Crabtree by Gruber.

Once you get away from comparing it to the original and start to enjoy it as a particularly silly farce it does have some very funny moments held together well by René and director Dean Taylor keeps up a decent pace although the scene changes in front of curtain could be snappier to avoid losing momentum, but that is likely to improve as the run goes on.

In general the set and design by the director and Julia Roden is good, giving us a creditable French café although René and Edith's bed scene could do with a little work to make the bed look less like two chairs and a table covered in a blanket.

Costumes, by Carmen Burkett, Louise Price and Christine Bland and supplied by Milton Keynes Theatre of Comedy are excellent and help to create the spirit of the original on stage. The strong cast are obviously having a ball and despite the deprivations of wartime France rustle up a very silly and most entertaining evening. 

Roger Clarke

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