Privates on Parade**** (Noel Coward Theatre, 25 Jan 2013)

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Theatre

photo-117Set in 1948 and, when first performed almost 30 years later, Peter Nichols’ loosely-structured comedy (with songs by Denis King) was far enough removed from the events it depicted to satirise them, but close enough to resonate with audiences. Revived now under Michael Grandage’s direction, the contemporary relevance of the piece looks questionable, yet in another 30 years and relocated to Afghanistan, it’s observations about how Britain perceives its place in the World could still be just as cutting. The play draws from the writer’s own experiences in post-War Malaysia and centres on a group (SADUSEA – Song and Dance Unit South East Asia) putting on shows to entertain troops. At the forefront of the group is a flamboyant drag queen, played with great relish by Simon Russell Beale who extracts every possible laugh from the camp humour. As always with this actor, there is as much enjoyment to be had from the expressions on his face when he is not speaking as from the delivery of his lines. There are also stand out performances from Joseph Timms as the innocent new arrival and Angus Wright as the over-zealous Major. Amidst the hilarity, the more serious themes are brought out well and, despite the dating, I still found it a satisfying and pleasurable evening.

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