Reluctant Heroes

(Role: Tone)

Army Farce at the Belgrade Proves a Tonic

During his adjudications in the Coventry Drama Festival at the Belgrade Theatre recently, Mr James Roose Evans approached one comic offering with the comment: "Well, I suppose if you like this sort of thing......"

His words came to mind last night as I sat in the same theatre watching Colin Morris's Army farce Reluctant Heroes.

Now I happen to like this sort of thing, though appreciating the sentiments of those who scoff at it. I like it in small doses, not just as something to sugar the pill of more serious drama, but as an unpretentious tonic in itself hardly sustaining, but nevertheless, highly invigorating.

Alan, far right, as Tone, the 'elegant young darling'

As a tonic should be, this production by the Belgrade Company under Graham Crowden's direction has plenty of pep. The story of the luckless sergeant and his three hopeless recruits brought a large first-night audience to a greater pitch of hilarity than I have seen in the past year.

Its success - for it will certainly go down as a success if not as an achievement - lies in its ridiculous situations and the author's talent for exploiting the stock comic themes of Service life. A competent group of actors can hardly fail with it.

One performance last night was very much more than competent, however. Patrick O'Connell, as the bumpkin who always does and says the wrong things, is discovered as a clown of unusual appeal.

If his work seems rather a carbon copy of that by Brian Rix, it is none the worse for it. He has a gifted touch, winning sympathy as well as laughs.

He gets good support from Richard Martin and Alan Howard as the other two soldiers, especially from the latter who gives an admirable portrait of the elegant young darling quite unprepared for Army life.

Clinton Greyn's sergeant has bags of bluster, but this young actor lacks the weight for the role.

In his brief appearances, Charles Kay brings a touch of class as the ludicrous, head-in-the-clouds Captain Percy.

The play, which will run for a fortnight, owes much to Brian Currah's realistic settings.


Coventry Evening Telegraph, 12.5.59.

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Patrick O'Connell, Alan Howard and Richard Morris