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Review of Allo Allo by the St. Albans Charity Players Of Northampton at St. Albans The Martyr Church, Northampton

It is safe to say that the sitcom Allo Allo was very much a product of its time and if you didn't live through it and sat through the play being performed by St Albans Charity Players this week, you may well wonder what the hell was going on.

I lived through Allo Allo and I have to say I enjoyed the slapstick pointless antics of a style of sitcom that probably no longer exists (some would say "Thank God"). Its silly, often risque comedy was very much of its time, but during the eighties there was a lot of it about. Thanks to writers like Jeremy Lloyd, David Croft and Jimmy Perry. It was all good clean (but with hidden meanings) fun.

The stage play is a bit like a greatest hits with a loose plot, concerning a visit by Hitler and that famous painting. Written by the original writers the play takes place across seven different locations (mostly within Rene's cafe) which were cleverly realised in such a small area at the front of the hall. Individually lit to direct our eyes in the right direction.

Opening on the main stage of the cafe, the opening monologue was by Rene in true original episode style. Playing Rene was Adrian Wyman, the undoubted star of the show, holding the entire piece together and on stage for much of the hour and forty minute production. He had a suitably dodgy accent, which I have to say most of the cast pulled off, an important part of the series. His delivery was also perfect and I suspect the great Gordon Kaye would have been more than happy with his portrayal.

The rest of the cast were generally good, there were the obvious casting issues, which I suspect it not uncommon for amateur productions. Derrol Barnes was far from bald enough to play Colonel Von Strohm, but the hair jokes were covered fine. While Vicki Pankhurst was certainly not short enough as Mimi to need the stall. However these are mere minor issues as the cast certainly threw themselves into their roles with great spirit.

Although her role was not large, I particularly liked Diane Wyman as Helga, a favourite of mine in the original show and one of the closest representations of the original cast (Kim Hartman) in the production. Also Mark Mortimer was great as Crabtree, as ever getting many of the best lines as the bumbling policeman "pissing the cafe".

Generally it was an excellent production with I think generally the only sticky moments coming from the source material rather than the cast, the scene with Leclerc and that cockatoo a particularly painful scene which lasted too long. The only comment I would make on the production side would be the lighting for the cinema scene, a touch uncomfortable for myself to sit through, but that may just be myself.

On a side note to the play, much like my experience of the Northampton Musical Theatre Company when I attended Blitz, I have to say I was bowled over by the organisation of the whole event. With an interval drinks order and waitress service and in character raffles, it really was just great.

If you were a fan of the original series, I would certainly recommend you try to make it to see the play, and if you weren't, maybe take someone who was with you to explain what the big boobies is going on! Also, its all for charity, so everyone wins.

'Allo 'Allo is on until Saturday 28th June, 2014 with shows each evening at 7:30pm with a matinee at 2:30pm on Saturday.
The St. Albans Charity Players Of Northampton have a website at http://www.gafavgc.org.uk and a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-albans-charity-players-of-northampton/605746242786410?fref=ts

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