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Just the sight of Simon Russell Beale, possibly the greatest stage actor of his generation, dressed as Marlene Dietrich is alone worth the price of a ticket for the opening production of director Michael Grandage’s starry five show season.

Set in Singapore and the Malayan jungle, Peter Nichols’ 1977 revue-style comedy draws heavily on his own experiences as a naïve young recruit in Combined Services Entertainment, putting on morale-boosting concert parties during the Malayan emergency in the late 40s.

Beale gives a scene-stealing performance as bottle-blond Acting Captain Terri Dennis, camping it up deliciously in full slap, and openly on the hunt for the next casual encounter.

But one can still see the compassionate heart of gold – and a controlled anger - beneath the elaborate costumes and double entendres.

There’s good support, too, from John Marquez’s Corporal, a foul-mouthed Brummie in charge of stores who has a wife back home but now swings the other way, and from Angus Wright’s gung-ho, blinkeredly Christian  Major, unnecessarily leading his men into dangerous territory.

And - to counter the laughs, the songs and the abundant innuendo - there’s an intercultural love affair cut short by social expectation, plus a pair of silent, sinister watchful local servants helping to hasten the departure of the unwelcome British interlopers.

Noel Coward, St. Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4AU
Tube| Leicester Square
Until 2nd March 
£10.00 - £57.50

Photo: Johan Persson


Theatre review: Privates on Parade at Noel Coward, London
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