‘Are You Being Served?’ is an extremely funny play based on the BBC tv sitcom ‘Are You Being Served?’. The series of 69 programmes lasted from 1972 until 1985, regularly attracting more than 20 million viewers per show. Written by the writers of ‘Allo, Allo’, actor Jeremy Lloyd (Joanna Lumley’s husband) and David Croft – who was born David Sharland but adopted his wife’s surname – David also wrote ‘It ain’t half hot Mum’ and ‘Dad’s Army’.
Although ‘Are You Being Served?’ is a clever piece of writing and beautifully crafted, the Truck Theatre in Hull – one of the UK’s poorest and least desirable town’s to live in – decided that the script was ‘outdated and demeaning to women’ and ‘needed to be more politically correct’ so barred the play from their theatre. A few months later in the same theatre, a ‘Full Monty’ scene with four MALE strippers was a huge success.
This two-hour laugh machine can be seen at The Stirling Theatre, within the Innaloo Community Centre, Morris Place at Innaloo. The shows are nightly at 8.00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 3rd August. There is a Sunday matinée at 2.00 pm on 28th July.
The scene: Present day in a large family owned departments store.
The set: considering that the TV’s stage is huge in area, the design managed to incorporate all the main features of the programme. The imaginative lighting for Act Two’s tent scene worked very well. Good work as always by lighting and sound tech Ian Wilson, who produced impressive stereo sound effects.
Set construction was by Andrew Watson and decorated by the cast.
The stage manager Carole Wilson was assisted by Melissa Skeffington and Richard Norman, who worked perfectly as a team.
The lecherous and disrespectful cleaner, Mr Mash (Bob Charteris) is carefully polishing the mannequin when the lift door opens and the general manager, Mr Rumbold (Peter Neaves) emerges. As Captain Peacock (David Gribble) begins to announce that the store owner, Young Mr Grace (David Young) is generously paying for a staff trip to a one-star hotel in Spain, the incontinent Mr Grainger (Peter Boylen) toddles off to the toilet for the third time since arriving.
A pregnant Miss Brahms (Roxanne O’Connor) arrives, closely followed by Mr Lucas (Owen Phillips) who is forever after Miss Brahms. A knocking is heard from the lift door, revealing Mrs Slocombe (Jenny Wrenn) who in turn is revealing her loyalty for the country. Mr Humphries (Sean Bullock) makes his colourful entrance.
After their injections from the store’s nurse (Ginny Moore-Price) the workers are on their way to Spain. Unknown to the visitors, hotel manager (Bob Charteris), who has his eyes on the giggly young Conchita (Virginia Moore-Price), is being pressured by a freedom fighter, Caesar (Mason Kemp) and his voluptuous supporter, Teresa (Melissa Cruikshank) to give them hotel rooms.
The guests settle down to a delicious meal with fresh octopus (Michael Watson) – a little too fresh. Will there be any holiday romances?
The play features well-worn double-entendres, numerous innuendos and dodgy jokes, but the almost full house loved it. It was exactly what they had come to see. As Mr Trevor Bannister’s widow said, ‘Trevor would have thought this is political correctness gone mad.’
There were plenty of laugh out loud moments, plenty of titters and a few jokes even slipping under the radar. In real life during rehearsals, if his part was not for a few pages, Mr Grainger used to pop out to the pub next door for refreshment and was often a little too relaxed for the recording later that night.
The costumes (Alison Goodwin) are wonderful. They capture the personalities of the wearers, from the arrogant Captain Peacock, to Caesar the revolutionist and the sexy girls with more meat than a butcher’s window.
Director Andrew Watson has proved himself competent in various genres, but there is no doubt that he shines in comedy. In presenting such a much-loved and internationally revered show, where the audience know every character intimately, it was essential that the cast were immaculately rehearsed and really lived their TV personalities. They did. The second Act called for split second timing with the script and action, but no problem, the cast were precise and natural in their delivery. Fabulous teamwork.
For matching the TV show’s characters, a special mention must go to Jenny Wrenn, her Mrs Slocombe was immaculate, and Sean as Mr Humphries was outstanding with all the expected mannerisms.
This play is not the poorly written film script of the store’s holiday, but a well-structured play with plenty of laughs. You have just a couple more chances to see Mrs Slocombe’s pussy – it is worth seeing.