’Allo ’Allo, Wivelsfield Village Hall
A cold November evening saw me at Wivelsfield Village Hall, where once through the front door I (and everybody else) was transported to occupied France during the Second World War.
From the cheery ‘Bonjour’ from the front of house – or should I say ‘devant de maison’ – to programme sellers dressed in striped jumpers, berets and wearing strings of garlic around their necks, it was clear we were in for a fun evening.
The hall was packed – in fact, I believe the play was sold out across all four nights – and we had time to appreciate the cleverly designed set on the open stage.
From the moment a care-worn René appeared and addressed the audience, we knew we were going to be entertained.
All the ingredients were there – exploding cigars, large German sausages and a life-size blow up Hitler doll – but it was all the actors who stole the show. We were treated to performances that were not copies of the much loved characters from the television series, but had more than just the essence of them.
The accents were cleverly used and kept up throughout the performance. No mean feat, especially for Chris Whitehead playing Officer Crabtree, who had the unenviable task of learning lots of non-words from ‘Good Moaning’ onwards! The familiar phrases were there, but the actors made them their own. For example, Jo Callaghan as the opera singing/Hitler impersonating Captain Alberto Bertorelli. Victoria Brewer as Michelle Dubois, the resistance leader, was probably expecting the whole audience to join in with her ‘Listen carefully, I will say zis only once’, but if we did, we did it quietly and respectfully.
Joe Mott’s General von Schmelling cutting up sausages gave rise to more confusion.
There were some lovely touches of ‘stage business’, such as Michael Towner as Herr Flick dressing while still holding his stick, helped by Veronica Matthews as Helga, which was very funny.
Some wonderful comic timing, either from dialogue or actions, was shown by Bill Baldock as Colonel Von Strohm, Carl Todhunter as Lieutenant Gruber and David Tettersell as Monsieur Leclerc among many other examples.
The two waitresses, Yvette and Mimi, played by Debbie Dillon and Maxime Dudeney, obviously enjoyed delivering their lines loaded with innuendo, as we enjoyed hearing them.
A special mention should go to Pearl White as René’s wife Edith (an Edith Piaf wannabe), who embraced her part with gusto.
But I think the highest accolade must go to Bob Wilson, whose René was superb throughout the play.
The final scene, which found the small stage knee deep in Hitlers, was well crafted and very amusing.
Yes, ’Allo ’Allo was everything you would expect – double entendres galore and lots and lots of fun.