Theatre review by Julia Pattison: Privates on Parade at the John Cooper Studio

The play was a wonderfully bawdy, professionally presented production, well worth experiencing.
The play was a wonderfully bawdy, professionally presented production, well worth experiencing.

Play: Privates on Parade

Venue: John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate York

Review by: Julia Pattison

Suitable for Age 16+

You always know you’re going to get a Pick me Up after watching productions by this quality Company; their latest show Privates On Parade was an absolute tonic. Seeking sanctuary from the cold, wet, windy night in York, I climbed the stairs at John Cooper Studio and was immediately transported to South East Asia; the space had been totally transformed into the tropics, with amazing attention to detail, along with a fully equipped bar – most welcoming.

It was said that you couldn’t take your granny to this show, but you’d be surprised, grandmas can be much more broadminded than you think!

Yes, the language from Corporal Len Bonney (played with great zeal by Andrew Isherwood) was rather choice, but was very much part of his character.

This award winning “play with songs” was based on the real-life experiences of writer Peter Nichols, who’d entertained British troops in Singapore in his National Service days with Carry On star Kenneth Williams and comedy star Stanley Baxter; the Carry On atmosphere was captured brilliantly in this highly professional York production, directed by Robert Readman, yet tinged with poignancy too, once the laughter died away.

We followed the journey of naïve Private Flowers (ably played by James Potter) who gets thrown in at the deep end as he joins a South East Asia entertainment unit.

Rory Mulvihill was fabulously flamboyant as camp Captain Terri Dennis; an excellent choice of casting for this lead role, Rory commanded the space in his musical numbers, (songs by Denis King) which were brilliantly played by Musical Director Sam Johnson; the Marlene Dietrich and Carmen Miranda numbers being particular highlights.

Rachel Dennison played the only female character, Sylvia Morgan with great sensitivity and feeling, as well as demonstrating her singing and dancing skills.

Ex-Woldgate pupil Iain Harvey, playing posh leading aircraftman Eric Young-Love gave his character a vulnerability that touched the heart, as well as showing his versatility as an all-singing, all-dancing performer. Andrew Roberts was delightful in his role of cheery Flight-Sergeant Kevin Cartwright.

I just loved Adam Sowter’s portrayal of outrageously camp Lance Corporal Charles Bishop; his facial expressions kept us all roaring with laughter, yet we felt for him in his sorrow too.

Paul Joe Osborne simmered with repressed rage as Sergeant-Major Reg Drummond, and was frighteningly menacing at times; his bullying nature came through loud and clear. A stellar performance too from Andrew Caley playing Major Giles Flack, who I’m sure was based on many officers that Nichols came in contact with during his National Service Days; the “I’m alright Jack“ brigade.

A wonderfully bawdy, professionally presented production, well worth experiencing.