Tom, Dick and Harry at Alexandra Palace Theatre
In the programme notes for this New Victoria transfer, it is strange that the writers fully outline the various historically accurate details of the infamous Allied escape from Luftwaffe-run POW camp, Stalag Luft III, in World War II that inspired their production. Tom, Dick and Harry is not, after all, a tension-filled historical drama akin to The Great Escape.
Although the historical details influence the casting, characterisations and moments of the dialogue, the style of the production is – as the poster’s aesthetic hints to Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps suggest – a fun blend of theatrical parody and light-hearted ensemble-based storytelling. Neither of those elements should be seen as snobbish criticisms of a fun, family-friendly (aside from one expletive), humour-filled show. There will be detractors who empathise with the second act outburst from David Fairs’s uptight German guard Geisler, who derides the company for irreverently indulging in a drag Carmen Miranda act while German civilians suffer; however, to do so unfairly ignores the ensemble’s effervescent brio from start to finish, and the audience members’ undeniable enjoyment of the comical moments in Theresa Heskins’s predominantly well-oiled show.
The pitfalls, unfortunately, come down to the venue and play itself rather than the production. While it is billed as a 150-minute show, it seems to have gained weight and it is nearer to 10pm by the time the audience heads out of the venue – weight which could easily be trimmed through judicious cutting of moments that do precious little to enhance the humorous elements, which are the performance’s strengths. Also problematic is the cavernous acoustics of the venue. Only Andrius Gaucas’s Czechoslovakian tailor has the capacity to vocally command the auditorium. The remainder of the ensemble find their voices partially muted or fully swamped, especially when background or onstage music is deployed.
Problems aside, though, the play is worth the trek up the hill. The slick ensemble work, light-hearted high-jinks and the especially spooky re-enactment of escapee Bob’s escape to Spain are undeniably dramatically engaging. If you are bringing younger ones, it may be wise to attend an afternoon performance, and regardless of age, it is best to watch Tom, Dick and Harry nearer the stage than being too far back for the time being.
Tom, Dick and Harry is at Alexandra Palace Theatre from 2nd August until 29th August 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.