Summertime is here, and for those who can’t wait for their holidays, theatre audiences can capture a taste of holiday fun and frolics at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens for a whole week in classic style!
Hi-De-Hi! remains one of Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s greatest sit-coms and still pulls in the audiences when repeated on television. Everyman Theatre’s decision to open this year’s Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival with Paul Carpenter & Ian Gower’s stage adaptation of the comedy classic is therefore appropriate given the lovely weather we are currently experiencing.
A fine summers evening beamed down on Hi-De-Hi! at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens on Friday. One couldn’t help but feel excited as the Maplin’s Yellow Coats welcomed arrivals into the open-air seating area. Not far away in Cardiff Castle, rock band, The Killers were belting out a live set. But not even the echoes of the Killers amplifiers could put off The Maplin’s Holiday Camp crew of 1959 led by northern comic Ted Bovis as they opened the show with a rockin’ rendition of Jimmy Perry’s Hi-De-Hi! theme tune. Similarly, The Killers were no match for Pontypridd’s own Gladys Pugh whose comical holiday camp announcement’s ascended into the Sofia Gardens treetops as her wondrous “Hi-De-Hi” was keenly retaliated by the audience with the obligatory “Ho-De-Ho!”
Fans of Hi-De-Hi! will recall much of the shows plotlines took place outdoors. The Open-Air format lends itself beautifully to the storyline for games, slapstick fun and dance routines. The cleverly designed set allows much scope for the scenarios to unfold including Jeffrey Fairbrother’s office, a dancefloor and a Hawaiian bar that cleverly opens into chalets. There’s also a neatly hidden area above the set that opens out as Gladys’ announcement booth.
While the staging in Sofia Gardens trees is idyllic, the casting is perfect and delivered meticulously close to the TV originals!
Phil Bond projects a larger than life northern attitude with plenty of cheek as Ted Bovis, not only capturing the essence of Paul Shane’s original portrayal but building on it with his own timing when encouraging audience interaction.
Chris Kendrick is Ted’s comic sidekick Spike delivering lovable charm matched with a constant element of surprise for each funny costume he is required to wear.
Toby Harris hits the right tone as mild mannered university professor turned entertainment manager Jeffrey Fairbrother combining despair, surprise, drunkenness and calmness to comic effect.
Sarah Green displays plenty of vamp allure with a wonderful recreation of Gladys Pugh. Gladys’ run-ins with sassy Yellow Coat, Sylvia, played by Elin Edwards are unmissable with both actresses delivering one of the shows funniest moments as the Yellow Coats dance with bananas to Perez Prado’s Guaglione.
Victoria Walters constantly raises smiles and laughter as Lancashire chalet-maid, Peggy. whose main ambition in life is to become a star. From assisting Mr Fairbrother in an awkward phone call with a holidaymaker who has lost her false teeth to giving an impromptu audition as a Femme Fatale, (before been shot down by Gladys icy glare). Miss Walters’ Peggy displays all the hallmarks of an actress with a natural ability for comedy.
Pam Wiener and Richard Thomas bring husband and wife Yvonne and Barry to life with the perfect balance of snobbery and campiness respectively. The feuding couple’s battle frequently spills over into their dance act and the Egyptian dance sequence combines slapstick with hilarious choreography both performers as well as the participating Yellow Coats.
There’s also some great comic dialogue moments from Wayne Vincent as Jockey, Fred Quilley and Peter Harding Roberts as grumpy Punch & Judy Man, Mr Partridge, both of whom complete the classic ensemble of Hi-De-Hi! characters.
Special mention must also go to the Yellow Coats who interact between the stage characters and the audience. Each one not only encourages audience participation for joining in with singalongs, games and generally cheering but, also add strong support to the main cast, occasionally creating laughs themselves, particularly in the dance routines.
Praise undoubtedly must go to director, Simon H West, choreographer, Emma-Jayne Parker and their production team for creating a slick show overflowing with feelgood factor.
Whether you remember the TV original or are seeing Hi-De-Hi! for the first time, Everyman Theatre’s presentation of this comedy classic is the ideal show to enjoy in the open air format, leaving you with memories aplenty of a perfect comedy presentation.
Everyman Theatre’s production of Hi-de-Hi! continues its run at Cardiff’s 2019 Open Air Theatre Festival until July 6, 2019.