‘’Allo, ‘Allo’ is based on the delightfully popular, zany BBC TV series written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft. It ran in the UK from 1982 – 92.
The Rockingham Theatre Company has excelled once again. Their rendition of this classic has just finished its season at the comfortable, Rockingham Castle Theatre, 8 Attwood Way, Rockingham. Curtain up at 7.30 pm, led to two and a half hours of mayhem, each Friday and Saturday night until 30th August.
In fitting with the theme of the play, the reasonable ticket price included a very tasty French platter with meats, cheese, olives, fruit and baguette (catering by Sue Walker, Carol Fisher).
As always at The Castle, the set was of an extremely high quality. The scene is René’s Café in 1942 war-torn France. The café is well furnished and an impressive street scene can be seen through the large shop window at the rear of the stage. For some scenes, a sliding wall and potbelly stove were moved to reveal the pantry behind (clever set design by Rob Walker).
On one side of the stage apron was an office set, complete with authentic antique telephone and props (furnishings and props by Sue Lawson and Stephanie Bell).
It is early morning and René (Andy Walker – in top form) is opening his Café René for another ‘typical’ day. Stepping into the follow-spot he confides to the audience that he has a wretched life with his irksome wife, Édith (Sharyn McCaskey). He goes on to tell us how he is hiding two British airmen (Jayden Fern, Damien McGovern) and so could be shot as a traitor at any minute.
He starts the day with a cuddle from his sexy waitress, Yvette (Tegan Joyce), followed by another passionate embrace from his other secret love, Mimi (Carissa MacPherson).
René’s café is the central meeting place for the German officers. First into the café is the emotionless, Colonel Von Strohm (Danny Joyce – loved the cinema) and his latest flame, the sizzling Helga (Sue Murray – my glasses steamed up). The sexiest man in the Italian army, Captain Alberto Bertorelli (Peter Scarrott) joins the couple at their table.
As the pianist (Callon Lean) plays in the background, Édith decides to entertain the troops with her diabolical, off-key singing. Meanwhile, the master of disguises, Monsieur LeClerc (Jethro Pidd) enters selling strange parrots. The gay Lieutenant Gruber (Sam Taylor), who lusts after René, is unfortunately misreading signals from the nervous café owner.
‘Like a phantom in the night’, the underground spy, Michelle (Sue Walker) creeps into the café. She tries to warn everyone that Gestapo officer, Herr Flick (Ian Spencer) is on his way. Flick has a huge sexual demand burning inside him, but has no idea how to fulfil it.
An English spy, Crabtree (Rob Walker), who is dressed in a French policeman’s uniform and speaks in a thick French accent wishes everyone ‘Good moaning’. He has barely finished the incomprehensible sentence when the nastiest officer in the area appears, the dreaded General Von Schmelling (John Castle). Several poor local peasants (Benjamin Steel, Bethany Cope-Thomas, David Jones and Jackie Grahan) are moved swiftly out of the way to make room for this Nazi officer and his entourage.
Can René and his resistance friends outwit the Nazis? Can the valuable painting of the ‘Madonna with the big boobies’ stay hidden?
After selecting a good solid cast, who closely resembled the appearance of the BBC TV troupe, talented director, Alison Gibson and her capable assistant, Helen Brown, controlled this large team well. They managed to retain the appropriate accents, and kept the pace moving along wonderfully well. The visual comedy, such as the antics with the knockwurst, squeezed all of the humour out of the situation and had the audience crying with laughter. Slick performances all round, with good subtle humour impeccably delivered.
There were many scene changes, but stage manager, Mathew Fisher and his assistant, Anne-Marie Knox ensured their crew were speedy and silent in moving the props, most impressive.
Makeup and ‘unusual’ props by Bernie Spencer, were a challenge but perfectly executed. The lighting (Jackie Hiscox, Rebecca Fisher) and sound (Ian Brown) crew had a few unusual demands put onto them, but they came up with the goods. The cinema effect worked particularly well.
Finally, there were the costumes. Such a production calls for various uniforms, here we had police, British airmen, several Hitlers, German officers as well as the waitresses and French locals, a huge wardrobe produced by Jeannie Watkins and major sponsor, Warnbro dressmaker, Lara Hall. Both gave most generously of their time and material in order to create the most authentic looking outfits.
The directors have created a good solid team of actors, with great rapport. Another masterpiece from The Castle gang, which ensured full houses for the season.