Privates on Parade

17 Feb

Set in British Malaya during the 1948 “Emergency”, this is a story of the birth pains of a new world.

Alice Livingstone’s production is also great fun. Overflowing with humour and playful musical numbers, it’s entirely captivating.

Imperialism? They say, to really understand a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes. What they don’t say, is that in order to do so, the time honoured approach is to first take the man’s shoes from him. (Please excuse the gender specific nature of the language – but it seems appropriate in the context of imperialism.)

Gandhi was fond of saying that imperialism hurt the conquerors just as it hurt the conquered (though not necessarily as much).

Photo by Bob Seary

Photo by Bob Seary

As a British performing military troupe, the men presented in Privates on Parade find themselves in a super heated atmosphere. There’s a troubling juxtaposition between what they do and the military conflict that surrounds them. In this jungle of political intrigue they’re utterly lost, but far from the cloying comfort of home, something begins to grow. Relationships, that for the sake of tidiness would be torn out at the roots in Britain, are allowed to blossom.

Aided by marvelous musical accompaniment, the entire cast does brilliant work. Diana Perini and David Hooley are superb as two lovers, searching for a path through racial prejudice. Jamie Collette and Martin Searles give a moving portrayal of two men in love, painfully aware of the value, and fragility, of their relationship in a closed society. Matt Butcher’s villain is wonderfully (and consciously) pantomime, and achieves both humour and real menace. James Lee gives a show stopping performance as cross dressing Acting Captain Terri Dennis. And Peter Eyers as Major Giles Flack, the local representative of British small mindedness, gives a hilarious portrait of right thinking.

Peter Nichols’ script and Denis King’s music captures a world that needed to change. But the play is also a contemporary call for a more open society. And this production presents it with such life affirming exuberance that you leave the theatre feeling we can make it happen.

Veronica Kaye


Privates on Parade by Peter Nichols. music by Denis King

at New Theatre until 8 March

One Response to “Privates on Parade”


  1. Privates On Parade | Matt Butcher - Actor - February 17, 2014

    […] – Theatre Red […]

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