‘Allo ‘Allo

Lymington Players The Malt Theatre, Lymington Community Centre, Lymington  Anne Waggott 

11 May 2024


There can’t be many people who are unfamiliar with the incredibly popular British comedy, ‘Allo ‘Allo, which ran for 7 years during the 1980s, has enjoyed numerous repeated broadcasts over the years – and has now become a staple of amateur theatre groups in recent years. As such, I’ve reviewed the play several times; in fact, this is the third time I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing ‘Allo ‘Allo as performed by Lymington Players!

René and his wife have hidden a valuable painting, stolen by the Nazis to provide them with a post-War pension, inside a knockwurst sausage hanging in their cellar. Two British airmen are also hiding in the cellar until the French Resistance are able to find them safe passage back to England – but the only way they can communicate with London is via a rickety old wireless disguised as a cockatoo… As René tries to please everyone (his wife, his mistresses, the occupying Germans and the French Resistance), he also tries to keep his café in business, stop the stolen portrait of the Fallen Madonna falling into enemy hands, keep his sanity, his freedom, and avoid getting himself shot. What could possibly go wrong?!

In some ways, the play has stood the test of time, as the British love to reminisce and commemorate those who served during WWII: the sacrifices made, lives lost, and yet stout resilience shown in order to secure freedom from tyranny. In other ways, it’s a theme that is always, sadly, going to be relevant, as wars continue to break out. Then again, 21st century audiences are less forgiving than those of the 1980s, with some of the attitudes, language and cultural depictions in the play possibly causing offence to more modern audiences. However, do not let that put you off! Set in war-torn France during World War II, this iconic, politically incorrect comedy is actually a very clever parody of the BBC drama, Secret Army, and still has much to offer the theatregoer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lymington Players’ productions of ‘Allo ‘Allo during my previous visits (2008 and 2014), so I admit I approached the dress rehearsal of 2024’s version with more than a little trepidation… Would the new cast live up to the reputation and my memories of their predecessors; would this production be in safe hands? Mais, oui, bien sûr, absolument!

I’m not the only one who might have déjà vu during this show, though; several cast members are also reviving their previous ‘Allo ‘Allo incarnations: Neil Brookes (René – 2008/2014), Pamela Jackson (Mimi – 2014), David Hughes (Colonel Von Strohm – 2008), Adam Ogilvie (Captain Bertorelli – 2008/2014), and Chris March (Officer Crabtree – 2008) are all back putting on the costumes and mannerisms to gave faithful portrayals of their familiar characters.

Neil Brookes was arguably born to play René, as he brilliantly develops an understated yet natural, rounded character with excellent comic timing, nuances and mannerisms. Chris Talbot is hilarious as his antagonising wife, Edith, the perfect foil to her frazzled, henpecked, war-weary, opportunistic husband, with every word, gesture, facial expression and accent embodying her acerbic character.

Stella Henney is very impressive as Herr Flick’s mistress, Helga, providing a masterclass in comedy acting, while there is strong support from Chris March as hopeless undercover British spy, Officer Crabtree, Jessica Anderson (Yvette), Pamela Jackson (Mimi), and Guy Standley and James Hoare, as they once more don the British airmen uniforms and provide delightful French café patrons in card-playing cameos.

With such a large cast, Director Amanda Harber has done a great job of creating such a cohesive ensemble production, set at a good pace against the well-designed and appropriately battle-damaged French café. Although not faultless, this is a thoroughly entertaining production. One thing that comedies live or die by, particularly farces like ‘Allo ‘Allo, is a live, responsive, laughing audience. I’m delighted that this run is sold out (although very sorry for you if you have missed out this time!), as I’m sure the production will go from strength to strength, invigorated by the warm appreciation of a receptive audience.