Wednesday, November 09, 2016



Fol Espoir at the Cramphorn Theatre

It all started in 1942 with a little booklet. Re-issued by the Bodleian as a historical novelty, and now recycled by Fol Espoir as the unlikeliest comedy hit, directed by John Walton, who shares the writing credits with the performers.
The three clever chaps known as The Real McGuffins are touring round the country, visiting those same village halls that saw GI s and airmen wowing the local girls three-quarters of a century ago.
We walk in to the strains of Geraldo on the gramophone – If I Only Had Wings – before being addressed by Eugene F Schulz of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. 
In role as a roomful of rookies, we're upbraided for running amok, and given answers to our personal queries. Alas, the famous – and surprisingly absorbent – information leaflet has been seconded to latrine duty, so Gene and his Colonel have to improvise, with the reluctant aid of the very British Major Randolph Gibbons.
The special relationship is tested to destruction in a wonderfully hilarious, deliciously surreal series of sketches, skits and lectures – social class, currency, cricket, small talk and stiff upper lip. It's sharp, fast-paced, and painfully accurate.
Dan March is the Colonel, growling and glaring at his men; he's also the twittish Lord Tollemache, blending cricket and baseball in Act Two. Jim Millard plays Schulz, whose days on the Great White Way help him impersonate Isobel [Mrs Gibbons - think Celia Johnson] as well as Randy's formidable Scottish mother. The Major himself, nervous, easily offended, the epitome of an uptight Brit, is Matt Sheahan.
And I haven't mentioned the Nazi Spy School, the trial by tea trolley, and the glorious Morris Dance finale, when we all find ourselves on our feet doing the Dowager's Hey to Glenn Miller and waving our white hankies as we twirl.
But it's not long before the old animosities re-surface, and the curtain falls on a slo-mo punch-up backed by Winnie's words - ” fraternal association … growing friendship … mutual understanding”...

backstage selfie at the Cramphorn

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