Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Jingo

Charles Wood
Primavera Productions
Finborough Theatre
(2008)

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Sadly, Charles Wood is already a forgotten playwright. Still only 75, this prolific writer has been lost to the theatre completely and writes for TV (Sharpe, Kavanagh QC and Inspector Morse) and the big screen (Charge of the Light Brigade and Iris).

He has been done few favours by director Tom Littler with this first revival of his 1975 comedy of war in the East.

Indeed, were it not for the subtitle, A Farce of War, the audience might well have been fooled into thinking that this tale of English types behaving badly was a serious reflection of expatriate life in Singapore and Malaya during World War II.

What we actually get is a play that seemingly attributes the loss of Empire to Freudian sexual problems, judging by the Brits on show, but has its tongue firmly in its collective cheek.

Susannah Harker plays "frightfully flighty" Gwendoline, married to gormless George - Peter Sandys-Clarke as a patronising, infantile Major employed to inform his fellow countrymen about "the little yellow man" from Japan.

He is as wet as a limp lettuce so she seeks her thrills with ex-husband Ian (Anthony Howell from Foyle's War), a local servant and a top brass masochist called Percy (Paul Mooney), who is more interested in being beaten than saving his soldiers.

The only people with their heads screwed on are the natives and surely that is the message that one is supposed to take from this satire on the dying British Empire, at one point symbolically swept off the map of the world on which the action was played.

Unfortunately, despite some wonderful examples of patronising Britspeak, the performance reviewed hardly raised a titter throughout from a rather baffled full house.

One wonders what Jingo was like first time around, as it was originally directed by Richard Eyre for the RSC with a cast led by Anna Massey and John Standing.

Until 19th April

Reviewer: Philip Fisher