BLOW-UP dolls, super-sized sausages and big boobies, with a cockatoo thrown in for good measure, might have Rhodes regulars thinking that the Bishop’s Stortford theatre has a saucy new stage strategy for 2015.
But the inflatables are of Nazi leaders Hitler and Goering, the big bangers are knockwurst, the cockatoo is a disguised radio and the big boobies are on the portrait of The Fallen Madonna by Van Klomp, which can all mean only one thing – it’s ‘Allo ‘Allo!
Subtlety and political correctness go out of the window for three days at Rhodes next month as award-winning Stortford amateur drama group Water Lane Theatre Company brings to life the stage version of the classic 1980s and 90s TV sitcom, which was set in wartime France.
Rehearsals by the 15-strong cast for four performances of the show on February 12, 13 and 14 have been going on since early November.
Those who fondly remember the TV series, which ran for 10 years and 85 episodes from 1982, will be happy to hear that the stage version retains all the characteristics of the small-screen sitcom: it’s a fast-paced, full-on farce, totally inappropriate but totally hilarious, and features a comic feast of cultural clichés and ridiculous fake accents. What’s more, if you yearn for a night of doubles entendres, this show will give you one.
‘Allo ‘Allo! was created and written by the late David Croft and Essex-born Jeremy Lloyd, who died only two days before Christmas. They also created Are You Being Served?
Its premise was not to make fun of the war but to spoof war-based films and TV dramas, in particular 1970s BBC1 drama Secret Army, which dealt with the activities of a Belgian “escape line” that returned Allied pilots to Britain, working from a café. Many of the elements and characters are directly taken from Secret Army, such as the café owner having an affair under the nose of his wife, a bed-ridden woman in a room above who knocks on the floor for attention, a pianist who is also the forger, and the enmity between the Gestapo and the German military.
Rene, a beleaguered café owner in the French village of Nouvion, is beset by his tone-deaf singing wife Edith, Nazis of dubious intent, amorous waitresses, an extremely earnest contact in the Resistance whose orders he follows reluctantly, a womanising Italian captain and an English spy posing as a gendarme who murders the French language every time he opens his mouth.
The Water Lane production – which will culminate in two performances on Valentine’s Day – features Liam Sheils as Rene, Rachel Leung as Edith, Rebecca Faulkner and Juliet Richards as Rene’s waitresses and mistresses Yvette and Mimi, Lisa Turpcu as Resistance leader Michelle, John Bell as Officer Crabtree and veteran Don Cooke as pianist and forger LeClerc.
On the enemy side, Water Lane chairman Richard Pink is Gestapo officer Herr Flick, Amanda Green his aide Helga, Nigel Sudworth as Gruber, Richard Lewin as General von Schmelling, Doug Sheppard as Colonel von Strohm and Observer editor Paul Winspear as Italian army captain Alberto Bertorelli.
Greg Hill and Trevor Siederer complete the speaking cast as airmen Carstairs and Fairfax. There are non-speaking parts for Emma Pink, Amanda Sheppard, Ellie Sims and Kerry Wheeler.
The production is being sponsored by Belleve Hair and Beauty, which has been trading from the former Parsonage Surgery premises in Snowley Parade since late 2012.
It is run by friends Carol Copper, who has been hairdressing since she was 13 and used to own Strand hairdressers on the Havers Lane estate, and Esther Brewer, the salon’s beauty therapist, who has more than 20 years’ experience.
Tickets are £15 per ticket (concessions £12.50) with one ticket free with every group booking of eight or more. Contact Rhodes on (01279) 710200 or online at http://www.rhodesbishopsstortford.org.uk.
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