For the better part of a year now, I have been encouraged with frightening enthusiasm to watch this play. Trusting other people's opinions is hard, you're probably deeply suspicious of anything I have to say about this right now, for instance. And rightly so. Or not, your opinion. For me, this issue was confused further by the implied threat of betrayal that comes with having a contrary opinion to that of someone you know...
In the build-up to this, my anxiety was challenged with the new threat of someone in an army uniform greeting me as 'Private' on the way to the loo. I nevertheless managed to overcome this terrifying ordeal, and find my seat again.
As the lights dimmed and the show began, the same cheerfully enthusiastic soldier swept onto the stage to, without preamble or even a flicker of sarcasm, address the least likely audience you can imagine as bona fide, fresh-faced American recruits.
Our soldier (played by James Millard) is swiftly joined by his ranking officer (played by Dan March)-a guttural Colonel from Oklahoma who shouts his way onto stage! His twitchy, paranoid glances and enthusiastic snarls probably get the best laughs of the show relative to words spoken. Together they begin to reprimand the audience for crimes left obscure, but somehow innocently filthy.
They were joined by a quintessentially British army representative (played by Matt Sheahan), complete with Scout-style short-shorts (his regular uniform was in the wash) and a first-class coin collection. The attention to detail in summarizing everything we know to be ridiculous about ourselves in such blunt, witty and hopefully British ways made this character impossible to discard as an obvious stereotype. A chalk-map of Britain’s internalised self-loathing was a personal highlight.
Easily the most impressive feat of the night was the incredible, rapid-fire idiot’s guide to Britain’s old currency in all its ludicrousness. Although several scattered references seemed to have a greater impact on more senior participants, overall, this only enhanced the experience for everyone involved. The memories touched on in this story inspired individual members of the audience to sing un-cued, ripple into knowing, smiling nods and murmurs, as well as break into hysteria over old money. Though I wasn’t alive for old money, I felt these jokes still carried.
All three performers showed remarkable dexterity as they flicked between various characters, undergoing classic methods of torture from travelling Brits on unsuspecting Americans, including such culinary delights as Marmite and the similarly dramatic controversy over coffee and tea! I won’t say anymore on this, but suffice to say, our Colonel commits to ingratiating himself in the local customs. Only fair then, that the same is expected of their audience! The show involves some unlikely blending of cultural oddities that make us question the otherness and certainly the sanity of patriotism and nationality. More immediately noticeable and perhaps more importantly, it breaks down barriers between an audience of strangers in a way which is just, well, fun. To my relief, I thought this was a very cleverly done, funny piece.