REVIEW: Flew the Coop (New Diorama Theatre) ★★★

This playful and humorous show is presented by Lost Watch appearing as the RGASC (Rauchbach Greasley Association Society Club), a club that has been set up to ensure that two very special heroes of World War II are not forgotten – Horace Greasley and Rosa Rauchbach.

The club consists of only five members who meet once a week in a broom factory where this performance is being staged. The brooms come in handy as most of the action takes place in a German Prisoner Of War (POW) camp and broomsticks make good rifles. As the club goes about to tell the story, we meet the two lovers – Horace Greasley, a British POW, appointed camp barber, and Rosa Rauchbach, a German interpreter, who takes the job at the camp because she wants to improve her English. Yet when Rosa meets Horace (nicknamed Jim), she falls in love and Horace (who has not seen a woman in over 400 days), is more than willing to reciprocate her feelings. As they kiss, the whole company performs an energetic dance routine to a disco tune.

This is 1943 – as the company repeatedly reminds us – and the place is Upper Silesia, a multi-national eastern province of Germany, predominantly Polish and German, with a Silesian identity. Rosa’s family are Jewish but her father managed to burn all the village records before the Nazis could get their hands on them, thereby saving half the population. But there are other ways to attract unwanted attention from the Nazis – a woman who hands an apple to a POW is shot in the back and her family is also punished for her transgression.

Rosa smuggles in food and other necessary items for Horace and his mates whilst the two lovers are enjoying their affair right under the nose of the German guards. However, when Horace is transferred to another camp, the two lovers are separated. Rosa tracks Horace down and he quickly becomes an escape artist, leaving the camp more than 200 times to meet his loved one in a local church, only to return to the camp afterwards. But Horace and his companions want to escape from the camp for good and Rosa is supposed to help.

Louise Skanning’s production is fast-paced and highly theatrical as the company enthusiastically tells the story of the two lovebirds using brooms, buckets, and mops as props and percussive instruments whilst performing some impressive dance moves. Daniel Holme plays escape artist Horace, Rianna Dearden is patriotic Silesian Rosa, and the rest of the ensemble take care of all other roles including German prison guards, prisoners of war, Rosa’s family, and the women in the post office who secretly listen to BBC news.

A bit lightweight but good fun.

Reviewed by Carolin Kopplin

Flew the Coop is playing at the New Diorama Theatre until 4 March 2017