IT WAS happy campers all round as Abbey Theatre unveiled their latest comic production.
‘Hi De Hi!’, written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft of ‘Dad’s Army’ fame, was always a childhood favourite, so the Abbey Theatre company had a lot to live up to.
The theatre was packed to the rafters, and the sweet old ladies with deceptively dirty minds who appeared to comprise a significant portion of the audience seized upon every snappy one liner and double entendre with aplomb.
The script was tight and the dialogue was generally very punchy and well-delivered, even for a first night.
The story centres on a season at the Maplin Holiday Camp and the shenanigans of the yellowcoat staff as their various sub-plots intertwine.
Gladys Pugh, sports organiser and head yellowcoat, played by Judith Sanderson, does a very pleasant and subtle Welsh accent, which works well with her attempts to seduce Jeffrey Fairbrother the entertainments manager.
Alan Christison, who also produces the play, is very funny as the ‘soft touch’ Fairbrother. His upper class sensibilities clash hilariously with his situation as he attempts to dodge Gladys and manage a bunch of rogues in yellow coats.
Chief among them is Ted Bovis, camp host, played by Paul Shane in the original, and reprised with gusto by Mark Masson. His opening Elvis number was a highlight.
Ted has to find £50, which in 1959 was a huge amount of money, to pay his alimony to his ex-wife Hilary (Jean Henderson) and he spends a lot of time scamming campers and running books to make ends meet.
Peggy Ollerenshaw, the hapless wannabe star, is brought to life by Eileen Masson, who manages to maintain a very good Lancashire accent throughout the hilarity, even in song!
The rest of the Maplin staff were also very entertaining. Philip Pennant Jones’ Mr Partridge was particularly curmudgeonly, Jim Shaw’s Barry the dance instructor was amusingly effete, while his partner, Yvonne (Pat McInroy), was snobbery personified.
Geoff Bray was very convincing as a disgraced horse trainer, Alan Johnston hammed it up as love-struck policeman Pritchard and the yellowcoat girls added a touch of glamour to the proceedings.
The backstage crew, the builders and painters made good use of the space, and were able to very successfully shuffle props around to create a selection of holiday camp locations.
The costumes, in particular the signature yellow coats and Ted Bovis’ outlandish chequered suit were exactly as I remembered them from the programme.
The ‘Hi De Hi’ season started on Monday and will continue to bring laughs to audiences until Saturday, April 14.