Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Allo Allo! - Darlington Civic Theatre

Allo Allo! by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft
Director: James Robert Carson

Reviewer: Ian Cain

“Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.”

The popularity of Allo Allo! Is a phenomenon that cannot be disputed. The classic television series, written by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd, ran for 85 episodes over a period of ten years from 1982 to 1992, regularly attracting many millions of viewers. In 2004, it was voted thirteenth in a poll to find Britain’s Best Sitcom. The success of the series spawned two Christmas specials, international tours of the stage show and a series of books chronicling The War Diaries of René Artois.

Now, Calibre Productions have brought Allo Allo! back to the stage. Of course, some of the original actors who created the iconic characters are no longer with us, while others are committed with other work. Therefore, the weighty task of playing René and Edith Artois, Herr Flick, Helga Geerhardt, Michelle ‘of the Resistance’ Dubois et al rests on the shoulders of a talented new cast, starring Vicki Michelle who reprises the role of Yvette Carte-Blanche. Her stage entrance was marked with a fond round of applause from the audience.

This production, staged to
commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the legendary series, is wonderful. The farcical antics that took place in Café René, Nouvion, France, during the German occupation of World War Two still had the audience in stitches and the laughs, which came often, were loud, long and hearty.

What impressed me most about this show was the attention to detail that is evident throughout. From the performances of the cast to the charming set, designed by Nancy Surman, no small detail has been overlooked.

Jeffrey Holland makes a wonderful René without attempting to mimic or impersonate Gorden Kaye. The success of
his interpretation of the role is shown to best effect in the scenes he shares with Vicki Michelle’s Yvette.

Vicki Michelle, not looking a day older than when the series was first aired, is a sure-fire hit with the audience, especially when throwing her arms around Holland and rumbling an elongated, deep growl of “Ooooooh, René!”

As always, these intimate moments between the cafe owner and his waitress are shattered by the shrill demand of Madame Edith: “René! What are you doing with your arms around that serving girl?” Corinna Marlowe’s performance as Edith is a fitting tribute to the comic character created by the late Carmen Silvera – she even manages to be as off-key with the cabaret singing!

Other significant roles are consummately performed by Nell Jerram (Helga), Judy Buxton (Michelle), Martin Carroll (Captain Bertorelli), James Rossman (Herr Flick), Claire Andreadis (Mimi), Richard Tate (Leclerc), Oliver Beamish (Gruber) and Matt Jamie (Crabtree).

Although the stage version is slightly more risqué than the television series was, Allo Allo! is still a fantastic evening of gentle, nostalgic comedy filled with double entendre and all the familiar catchphrases. Don’t miss it!

Allo Allo runs at Darlington Civic Theatre until Saturday 21st March 2009
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