instructions for American Servicemen in Britain

9 Jul

INSTRUCTIONS FOR AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN BRITAIN ****
Dan March, Jim Millard, Matt Sheahan and John Walton
This play begins in the best possible way. With some music from the second World War. So as the whole audience was ’Hanging out the Washing on the Seigfried Line’ my youthful neighbour said to me ‘I didn’t know there was this kind of music before The Beatles.’ I knew what she meant. Songs about ordinary people that meant something to the man in the Street. When the actors finally appeared, the audience were all in great form, ready to laugh and they certainly did.
Just three guys, two Americans – one a bombastic colonel and the other an ex Broadway musical performer who meet up with an English Major. The Major (Mat Sheahan) is treated as a different species by the others. He is not smartly dressed in uniform but is in shorts with jolly socks. Dan March plays the outrageously aggressive American Colonel and James Millard plays an ever- smiling ex vaudeville comedian who is now an officer in the Army
The audience are supposed to be GI recruits and the officers lecture us, ignoring the fourth wall, attacking odd members in the front row, a ploy that helps the comedy along beautifully. We are all expected – nay commanded -to join in – even to do several steps of an English Morris dance.
It is of course a definitive version of “two nations divided by a similar language” as I think Winston Churchill said. Mr Churchill known to the Yanks as The President of London. The consider him ok because he was half American.
Another very funny piece by Mat Sheahan (as The English Major) about the British pre-decimal monetary system as he explains it to the American visitors with the use of a blackboard. Including confusing descriptions of farthings, tanners, ha’pennies, half crowns and even the invisible guinea.
The show is freely adapted from a 1942 pamphlet discovered by John Walton, director and producer and they appealed to him as endearing and very funny. The pamphlet was to prepare GIs for their new home and stop the Bosh from making trouble between the allies.
The play is broken up into sketches and the three actors take on many different roles, but for my money, the three servicemen are the funniest.
One of the sketches feels close to home. The villages cricket match is confused when the men try to turn it into baseball which the British think of as Rounders.
Many truths are spoken here but the main thrust of this show is the wonderful comedy actors and their performances They are brilliant – mostly working their own and John Walton’s material.
A few of the sketches don’t completely succeed but you can never have everything. I give it five with love and laughter.

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