Tuesday, 4 November 2008

’Allo ’Allo Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne 4th Nov 2008

'allo 'allo tour 2008Cast

Jeffrey Holland - Rene Artois
Vicki Michelle - Yvette Carte-Blanche
Peter Alexander - Colonel Von Strohm
Judy Buxton - Michelle Dubois
Martin Carroll - Captain Alberto Bertorelli
Carol Ann Crawford - Edith Melba Artois
Marc Geoffrey - Flying Officer Fairfax
Allix Holland - Flying Officer Carstairs
Matt Jamie - General Von Schmelling & Officer Crabtree
Nell Jerram - Helga Greenhardt
Richard Mark - The Piano Player
James Rossman - Herr Otto Flick
Robin Sebastian - Lieutenant Hubert Gruber
Richard Tate - M. Leclerc
Bronya Deutch - Peasant

First things first. A very full Devonshire Park Theatre. Not a sell out, but not too far off. And it wasn't opening night either. So what did 'Allo 'Allo have to draw in such a large audience that so many other very high quality shows this year could not manage.

The stars? Well it's a large cast indeed but the only major household celebrity names are Jeffrey Holland and Vicki Michelle. Jeffrey has appeared in excellent productions at the Devonshire many times before and as friendly and popular as Vicki Michelle is I don't think she was the reason for the big turnout either.

I think the attraction of this show is the sheer timeless popularity of the TV series itself, which has become a worldwide hit. The humour is inoffensive, consistently funny and despite the fact the subject of the 2nd World War could have offended so many different nations it is still as popular now as it was when it was first on our TV screens.

So we have a cast made up of many people I have never seen before. How does the final production compare to the TV show?

Extremely well indeed is the easy answer and this is despite the fact that the set itself never changes for the whole show.

Judy Buxton and husband Jeffrey Holland stars of 'allo 'alloSpeaking to Vicki Michelle after the performance she did say that when the tour first started there were worries that people might not be able to accept Jeffrey Holland as Rene Artois.

However, if Gordon Kaye has been to see this himself though I am sure he would be very impressed with the resulting performance - it's spot on....... and even the moustache is real! I would have liked more than one occurence of "You stupid woman!" to wife Edith in the script. Rene getting caught in a clinch with Yvette just the once, but the script isn't down to Jeffrey.

Vicki Michelle, of course, plays her original character Yvette and you wouldn't expect anything but an equally good performance which she delivers.

But how do the lesser known actors fare?

Well, for me at least, the whole cast delivered a performance that left you able to relate them directly to the original show and cast.

I could rave about them all but I'll restrain myself to a few highlights.

Judy Buxton (Jeffrey's other half in real life) plays Michelle Dubois of the resistance brilliantly giving, as usual, many vital instructions "only wince".

I thought Martin Carroll's almost clone-like appearance as Captain Bertorelli was outstanding. All the more so considering he said he only watched a couple of TV shows before the tour began.

Helga, the rather stern, but attractive, sexual plaything of Herr Flick is played by Nell Jerram, I thought she was so good she could easily have been in the original TV cast.

The last cast member I will mention, without any detriment to the rest of the talented cast, is Richard Tate as M. Leclerc. Again I thought he excelled in delivering a great replication of a familiar TV character.

The script itself has been cleverly written to deliver all those things present in the original TV series but without giving you the impression that it is recycling an old story.

The sexual inuendo is there, the Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies, the german sausage, the appalling French spoken by Officer Crabtree, lots of campness from Lieutenant Gruber and laugh after laugh delivered throughout the show.

For me the show only lacked one tiny but still vital thing.

Vicki Michelle stars as Yvette in 'allo 'alloWhen the script was written by original 'Allo 'Allo scriptwriters Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft they clearly went out of their way to include all the old favourite characters from the TV series.

But where is Madame Fanny, Edith's mother and of course Rene's mother-in-law-from-hell?

In spirit she is there in the stage show, always upstairs, in bed. But I feel that when you've done such a good job of including characters such as M. Leclerc it shouldn't have been too difficult to include casting "the old bat" too.

However considering this was a fantastic show this omission is really nitpicking what must be one of the best ever replications of a comedy TV show.

A great evening's entertainment and I doubt many, if any, of those many audience members regretted going.

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