ALLO ALLO: BERWICK & DISTRICT AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY, THE MALTINGS
AT the risk of sounding older than my years, they really don’t make comedy like they used to and in ‘Allo Allo’, Berwick Operatic had one of the heavyweights on their hands.
But rather than crumble under the strain they put their stamp on the national comedic treasure and took audiences on a trip back to Saturday night in front of the TV.
And on a cold and murky Friday evening in Berwick, that was a journey I was more than happy to make.
Gorden Kaye’s René Artois is one of the iconic characters of British comedy of yesteryear, giving Berwick Operatic’s own René, Steve Sadler, a hard act to live up to, but like so many of his castmates from lights-up to curtain-down he was fantastic.
The French accent was as dodgy as required, the mannerisms were bang on and the on-stage camaraderie with his other half, Sandra Storey’s Edith, was as far past the honeymoon stage as it needed to be!
You couldn’t tell that this was the first time the pair had played opposite each other and their terrific double act was complemented by a fantastic ensemble who contributed to the chaos going on in their café.
Waitresses Yvette and Mimi, aka Laura Catterall and Amy Cowan, would certainly wangle a generous tip from the audience.
Bill Shardlow’s Le Clerc was a fond reminder of the late Jack Haig; and the two people bestowed with the most famous lines in ‘Allo Allo’ also did the long-running series proud.
I will say this only once: Norma Miles was a joy to behold as the woman of many disguises, Michelle, and there’s to be no ‘moaning’ from me about Josh Bimson’s Officer Crabtree – he had the famous Arthur Bostrom character down to a tee.
Now let’s consider the Germans. As leader of the Gestapo, Herr Flick, Stuart Faed cut a commanding figure but also displayed a cracking set of pins when disguised as a cinema usherette, while Andrea McIver as his beau Helga was the perfect foil to his eccentricities.
Speaking of eccentric, one of the characters who sent the laugh-o-meter into overdrive was Simon Landels’ Lieutenant Gruber.
With the slapstick campness of classic British sitcom, Simon was the cheese to the chalk of Colonel Von Strohm (Ray Howell) and General Von Schmelling (Derek Butler), while as Italian Captain Bertorelli, Michael McLean was like a finely churned mozzarella, proving a real favourite with the capacity audience.
Some revivals of classic TV series are better left at the ideas stage – ‘Crossroads’ anyone? But first-time director Louise Wood and her co-director Denise Clarke ensured the old ‘Allo Allo’ magic remained with an added dusting of Berwick Opera sparkle.
The Society are largely known for their big song and dance productions but on this evidence they should try plays more often.
There were a few stumbles over lines but the pace of the humour never slowed and the cast’s commitment to what must have been quite a tricky piece was unquestionable.