Allo Allo

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

How much you enjoy the Allo Allo stage show is almost entirely dependent upon how intrinsically funny you find a sausage to be, given that the sitcom’s original writers, Jeremy Lloyd And David Croft, have left no entendre undoubled in this faithful revival.

Amid all the dropped trousers, compromising positions, and flashes of suspender belt (on both male and female legs), come such old and unsubtle lines as ‘I shall disappear up your back passage’ and ‘do you want a cockatoo?’

That the predominantly middle-aged-plus audience are still seemingly caught unawares by such predictably fruity badinage comes as a surprise, but they largely lap it up.

If you’ve seen the TV original – and, lets face it, who hasn’t – you will know exactly what to expect. Indeed, the fact that the original series relied on so many recurring scenarios means there’s an inevitable sense of déjà vu as the painting of the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies is concealed in a knackwurst, Edith sings appallingly and lascivious Italian captain Bertorelli repeatedly exclaims ‘whadda mistake-a to make!’

You might expect playful use of catchphrases to enliven the script, but here every witless repetition of ‘listen very carefully, I shall say this only once’ deadens the atmosphere. Only mispronouncing gendarme Crabtree gets a laugh with his introductory ‘good moaning…’ but even his garbled vowels soon become tiresome.

Well-drawn, believable characters were never the measure of the TV show, of course, and the fact they are all exaggerated stereotypical caricatures means new actors fill the roles and you barely notice the difference in the way they look and sound. But despite the 15-strong cast’s best efforts, they cannot match the vitality of the original team. Where the Knockabout energy ought to be magnified for the stage, it seems instead to be diminished.

Only Vicki Michelle remains from the original, still a sexpot at an incredible 57, but clearly stuck in a career rut. Meanwhile. Jeffery Holland, from that other Croft and Perry favourite Hi-de-Di fills the apron of Gorden Kaye with comic aplomb, even if his henpecked Rene Artois isn’t quite so world-weary as the screen original.

Each of the two halves is played out as an extended episode, each about 50 minutes long, but it proves tricky to stretch the format to twice the running time of a sitcom installment; let alone do it twice in one night.

The sausage-fixated plotline struggles the most, but at least part two builds to a conclusion worthy of such broad farce, ending with a stage full of phoney Fuhrers. Even so, a side plot about hiding explosives in cheese – which is conveniently forgotten about midway through – echoes part one’s sausage shenanigans rather too closely.

A little effort has been made to make the scripts more theatrical. We are ‘treated’ to one of Mme Edith’s real cabaret performances, and Herr Flick’s impressive dance number does the Gestapo proud, thanks to an energetic James Rossman. There are a few other flourishes in the production, too: an instant freeze-frame to allow Rene to explain the plot points, a silly inflatable Hitler, a booby-trapped stocking and even a sweetly choreographed way of resetting the stage.

But it’s not enough to save this from being a rather flat version of the oft-repeated sitcom, which begs the question: why bother going out to see it at all?

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Stevenage, September 2008

Review date: 4 Sep 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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