Allo Allo
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(Production August 2004)

Chase Theatre could not have chosen a better play than this to capture the holiday mood It was almost as though a show on the way to play a seaside season had stopped over at Carshalton, And didn't we enjoy It!

The Charles Cryer Studio, which can be a fairly austere auditorium, was transformed into Café Rene, during the German occupation of France, In World War II. The generously sized acting area (there's no stage in the conventional sense) was used to the full with bistro-style tables, chairs and an authentic-looking bar yet still left room for the actors and, more important, the dancers to
move.

How good it was, too, to see almost every seat taken on the night I went. Obviously, there is still affection for the television series; indeed, not all the jokes and situations would have meant much unless you knew the original source and characters. Another key to its box-office success was, no doubt, that there were a number of well-known, talented local actors in the large cast. Their friends enjoyed the opportunity to see them let their hair down in and, in some cases, ham it to the hilt. 'Allo 'Allo! does not call for great acting but it was apparent that all the players enjoyed what they were doing and this transmitted to the audience. Every double-entendre and slight gag was exploited mercilessly and the action was, at times, interrupted by spontaneous applause for a well-timed line or when an actor left the stage after an amusing episode.

Robert Hamilton seemed to revel in his role as the much put-upon Rene, increasingly disorientated as he was assailed on all sides by friend as well as foe.

Judy Abbott, his long-suffering wife, Edith, made the most of her cabaret number, Lian Downes and Paula Fitzgerald were always at hand as the dancing waitresses with a passion for their employer.

Peter O'Donovan strutted with mock menace as Flick, the humourless Gestapo commandant, shadowed with dog-like devotion by Cathy Poole, Helga, his unquestioning acolyte.

Shane Hervey's Crabtree, the Brit posing as the local gendarme, mangled his words to perfection and Samantha Bourne's several so-called "disguises" were as transparent as they were intended to be in her role of French Resistance organiser Michelle.

Chris Stanton was everyone's idea of a cartoon hard-line Nazi general, complete with realistic scar.

All the rest of the cast, together with directors Clare Gollop and Dennis Steer, showed their sometimes offbeat sense of fun in this sparkling, garlic-laden frivolity.

Tony Flook