FARCICAL situations, characters played with broad comic strokes, outrageous costumes, groanworthy jokes and villains more ridiculous than menacing.
No, not the panto, but next door at the OneTouch Theatre where the adult students of Eden Court’s drama lab give popular BBC sitcom ’Allo ’Allo a live run out.
World War II replayed as a French farce, John Batty’s production was not for those new to the series. Dipping into the show with the characters and increasingly ludicrous situation already set up, it required at least a little familiarity to be able to recognise the likes of RAF escapers Fairfax and Carstairs (Murray Park and Chris Armstrong) or Colonel Von Strohm of the occupying forces (Dieter Devriendt). Identification in the latter case was given an added layer of difficulty by having a German army officer wear a naval uniform.
That was one of the allowances that had to be made in watching a company of student amateurs rather than professionals, though even then there were a couple of stiffer performances and others who struggled with the comic French, German and English accents.
At the centre of the action Allan MacFadyen was a world weary Rene, wanting only a quiet life, the odd extra-marital flirtation apart, while all around him scheme and plot new ways that could get him killed.
Most menacing of these plotters was Luke Cockram’s Herr Flick of the Gestapo, Cockram nailing the jerky comic physicality of the original as well as, in the way of the Gestapo, having the best coat. Clare Allen as Michelle of the Resistance also handled the switch from exaggerated comic French to posh English well, and full marks to Chris Beaton for dealing with the mangled vowels of Officer Crabtree, the fake Gendarme ("Good moaning").
How much you enjoy this version will ultimately depend on how much you are a fan of the original with its gleeful use of national stereotypes, not least in the medal smothered "Italian war hero" Captain Bertorelli (Neil Pirritt).
Even by the show’s own convoluted standards, this is a cluttered hour’s entertainment with a couple of sub-plots involving a Communist resistance leader and anachronistic female German general who both lust for Rene going nowhere.
Like the panto, this is not a show to approach with an overly critical mind. Just be willing to go with it and it will offer some tinsel free laughs for the pre-festive season.
'Allo ' Allo continues at Eden Court's OneTouch Theatre on Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th December.