At first I was a little surprised to hear that Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain is actually a book adaptation (well not really a book, more of a guideline pamphlet). But as the show continued, it all made perfect sense. In WWII American G.Is stationed in British bases were actually given a cultural guide pamphlet explain the different language, customs and manners of their host country to encourage unity amongst the Allies as they stuck it to Jerry.
Adapted into a show by Fol Espoir theatre company, Instructions for American Servicemen In Britain follows the fallout of one group of American’s running riot on the village green and upsetting the Vicar. Followed up by an impending visit from Sir Winston Churchill means that a rather nervous and polite English serviceman teaching these ‘bloody Yanks’ a thing or two about proper behaviour in Britain. The plot itself is pretty thin and lacks a certain amount of bite and danger, but the subject matter is ripe for parody.
Although there are a couple of obvious jokes to start with and an ending that is as sickly sweet as a Victoria Sponge, Fol Espoir have chosen a couple of ripe topics for satire. The first being a ‘very simple’ explanation of Imperial currency system which was a stroke of genius in Matt Sheahan delivery. Similarly, a scene inside Germany’s Top Secret Spy School enacted by puppets is absolutely hilarious and smacks of Monty Python-esque humour.
The three strong company all give fine performances but it was an absolute joy to watch Jim Millard play an American serviceman pretending to an English lady in a pub to demonstrate to the troops how not to steal ‘ol Tommy’s girl.
The lack of tension and low risk stakes mean that the show never quite gets going and at times improv involving the audience fell flat, but overall Fol Espoir have created a jolly nice evening at the theatre. In the end the show is the theatrical equivalent of a warming cup of tea and a Rich Tea biscuit; reassuring, expected and completely British.
Reviewed by Roz Carter