FARCE is devilishly difficult to do, and the hilarious stage version of “‘Allo ‘Allo” scripted by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft proves no exception to the rule.Tempo Theatre has in recent years made a meal of classic British plays from the early 20th century, performed with all the gusto that a good amateur theatre company can muster and offering delicious parts to mature actors and newcomers alike. But with “‘Allo ‘Allo” the company may have bitten off more than it can chew, it only just manages to get it down.
Tempo has pulled all the stoops out with a full set and an array of quite ridiculous comic props such as the telephone hidden in a stuffed parrot or the mousetraps hidden in the Gestapo suspenders.
But farce, as suggested above is exceptionally demanding and with sometimes tame acting, slow timing, distracting blackouts and a varied approach to the fake French and German accents the script requires, it constantly teeters on the brink of hilarity.
The transition from TV to stage is no problem. Scriptwriters Davis and Croft have fashioned a play that almost defies interpretation – it is funny in and of itself.
But this kind of larger-than-life farce requires larger-than-life acting.
Some of the actors rise to the occasion. Jon Elphick as the cowardly but worldly-wise cafe owner René holds the show together, communicating directly to the audience whenever the plot gets too tangled.
Bill Kolentsis throws himself enthusiastically into the role of the Italian Captain Bertorelli, Chris Donohue as Herr Flick of the Gestapo draws applause for his tango, Matt Ashton brings off his appalling Anglo-French accent superbly as Officer Crabtree and Julie Wood is totally irresistible as Michelle the local Resistance rep with her hairbrained schemes for defeating the Germans.
Marian Fitzgerald, who really looks the part of René’s wife Edith, is far too naturalistic until right at the end and the same may be said of Sally Williams as Helga.
But in the end, the cast warmed to their roles and there is no question that they – and the script – had the audience rolling in the aisles.
For this reason, I would recommend a liberating visit to “‘Allo ‘Allo”.