Privates on Parade

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Previewed 1 December 2012, Opened 10 December 2012, Closed 2 March 2013 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London

A major revival of Peter Nichols' award-winning comedy Privates on Parade in London starring Simon Russell Beale and directed by Michael Grandage.

Privates on Parade tells the story of a British army outfit called SADUSEA - Song and Dance Unit, South-East Asia - which is charged with entertaining the troops in Malaya in the late 1940s. Features music by Denis King. First staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1977 at the Aldwych Theatre, Privates on Parade went on to win 'Comedy of the Year' at the Olivier Awards before transferring to the Piccadilly Theatre.

The cast for this production of Privates on Parade features Simon Russell Beale as 'Captain Terri Dennis' with Joseph Timms as 'Private Stephen Flowers', Angus Wright as 'Major Giles Flack', John Marquez as 'Corporal Len Bonney', Sam Swainsbury as 'Flight-Sergeant Kevin Cartwright', Harry Hepple as 'Lance Corporal Charles Bishop', Brodie Ross as 'Aircraftman Eric Young-Love', Mark Lewis Jones as Sergeant Major Reg Drummond', Sadao Ueda as 'Cheng' and Chris Chan as 'Lee'. The production is directed by Michael Grandage with choreography by Ben Wright, designs by Christopher Oram and lighting by Paule Constable. PLEASE NOTE: This show features strong language and some nudity. Simon Russell Beale's recent West End theatre credits include Ira Levin's Deathtrap (Noel Coward Theatre 2010) and Tom Stoppard's Jumpers (Piccadilly Theatre 2003).

"From the moment Simon Russell Beale flounces on stage, muttering 'Jessica Christ' and rolling his eyes on being told virginal new recruit Steven Flowers is 'going to be attached to your section', he commands the stage... The plot turns on the larger dangers the unit faces thanks to commanding officers with dodgy motives and the soldiers' bruising lessons in love and friendship. The first is played OTT, the second more sensitively. But Nichols' spikier comment about queer politics, post-colonial British racism and the dubious reasons behind Britain's intervention in post-war South East Asia can feel clunky. There's also a lack of pace to the direction, which lets Nichols' baggier writing hang too loose." Metro

"Always good to see a bit more of Simon Russell Beale, even if that bit is a flash of beefy thigh above fishnets, compensating for the extinction of his new bottle-blond mop beneath a Carmen Miranda fruit explosion... The big numbers, done with artful amateurism by Russell Beale's Captain Terri, ill-assorted soldiers and Sophiya Haque as a locally recruited Eurasian tart, are certainly riotous fun. It takes split-second timing to get it just wrong, as when Terri gabbles hastily through a spoken passage to catch up with the band, or the wrong props wobble towards him... While the lads anxiously open their Dear John letters, chase local talent or fall undemonstratively in love with one another, their major is, in both senses, barking. Angus Wright's performance is a joy: tall, crisp, he strides around with swagger-stick and jocose vigour like a Peter Snow gone bad. His bellicosity, and prudish attempt to warn young Flowers about catching 'les maladies d'amour' from the girls, make him a neat polar opposite of the kindly sexual realist Captain Terri. So a fine quality kick-off for Michael Grandage's new company, both in the comedy and a suddenly shocking darkness reminiscent of Oh! What a Lovely War." The Times

"If there are two words on a playbill that can be taken as a guarantee of quality, then they have to be 'Michael' and 'Grandage'. The former boss of the Donmar launches his theatre company - and its season of five star-studded productions - with Privates on Parade, and it is, needless to say, a singularly wicked pleasure... Simon Russell Beale presents his credentials as the most versatile actor in the world with a startingly brilliant turn as Terri Dennis, the leader of the concert party who metamorphoses first into Marlene Dietrich and then Carmen Miranda and Vera Lynn. In the wrong pair of heels, the character could simply become a grotesque, but Russell Beale shows how he has been shaped by tragedy. With an unbearable sadness in those big, mascaraed Bette Davis eyes of his, he talks about how the sailor he loved was lost at sea, and the audience is soon enveloped in his pain." The Sunday Telegraph

"A real play with songs, a panto with frilly pants and - even no pants at all - in Michael Grandage's ribald romp of a revival in which privates are not so much paraded as artfully screened. It's Nichols' story of his own unsentimental education... But as well as being a rite-of-passage drama, the play is a warm and affectionate celebration-come-spoof of this peculiarly British and distinctly dated brand of hairy-legged, knock-kneed, amateur vaudeville. There's also a dark underside to the story, what with the casual racism, the watchful and resentful mute Chinese servants ever-ready to seize power and Nichols' scepticism about British colonialism and interference abroad, all of which resonate and prevent the play from being a mere period piece. Grandage's production launches his new company with characteristic flair and assurance and couldn't be better drilled, but Simon Russell Beale is effortlessly show-stealing as the captain who leads the troupe." The Mail on Sunday

Privates on Parade in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 1 December 2012, opened on 10 December 2012 and closed on 2 March 2013.