Tom, Dick and Harry (also the names of the three escape tunnels) does its best to honour the people involved in one of the most daring escape attempts in World War II history.

 Credit: Andrew Billington

Co-written by Andrew Pollard, Michael Hugo and Theresa Heskins, Tom, Dick and Harry is based on the true story behind the escape from the infamous Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp. It is staged in the round at the historic Alexandra Palace Theatre, which was itself a prisoner of war camp between 1914-1919. It’s an interesting choice of venue – the exposed nature of the historical theatre walls adds to a feeling of decay and even excavation which compliments the story.

The script is inspired by top secret information that was classified in the war archives until 1972. The programme gives a fantastic overview of the research process which I found fascinating. The script itself … was ok. It got the story across. There was an endearing humour to it that strayed a little too closely into ‘Allo Allo’ territory. Elements of slapstick weaved between jokes that landed sporadically, the audience largely tittering rather than laughing out loud.

Given that the producers are behind two of my favourite West End shows, The Play That Goes Wrong and Six, I had high expectations. Unfortunately, the overall production does not have the slickness I associate with those productions. My biggest issue with this show (and judging by the comments of the audience leaving, it wasn’t just me) was the volume of the dialogue. You simply couldn’t hear a good portion of what was going on. It was particularly hard to hear when staging was being moved. This improved throughout the performance with the main cast projecting more, but instead of being immersed in their world, I was straining to hear. There are lovely moments of song dispersed throughout, but unless it’s full chorus, you couldn’t hear what was presumably lovely vocals.

 Credit: Andrew Billington

The cast are great, their chemistry worked well, and it truly felt like an ensemble piece. Michael Hugo and Andrew Pollard took on multiple roles and appeared to embody each with ease and conviction. I loved the set, designed by Laura Willstead, which included trap doors creating tunnel entrances and small furniture adjustments allowing us to move through time and location. This was particularly effective when a table on wheels pushed from one side of the stage to the other, complimented by lighting, gave us numerous location and character changes. Transitions from blackout were immaculate, and I mean immaculate! Mid scene location changes ranged from impressive (The movement between the three tunnels is stunning!) to slightly clunky furniture changes that scrapped and trundled as they left the stage, drowning out dialogue.

The lighting and projection were phenomenally well-designed by Daniella Beatie and Illuminos respectively- this was an absolute delight. Maps came to life, and there was a beautiful opening sequence where we meet our characters. Gentle audience participation adds a nice touch, inviting you into the ‘Operation’ and allowing for more ‘characters’ to exist, reminding the audience how many people were involved in the actual escape. The story content is wonderful. I feel like I learnt a lot as the historical events were scattered throughout, giving a picture of the scope of the endeavour, the ingenuity and bravery of all those involved. However, some of the dialogue felt forced and clunky.

I found myself identifying with the characters because I knew this was based on a true story rather than genuinely caring about these specific characters as they were written. The writer’s intention to create an ensemble that encapsulated the spirit of the whole camp, not just those who made it to the tunnel, was evident and to a certain extent worked, but you lost the genuine connection to a Steve McQueen-esq character. You rooted for them all but ultimately failed to be devastated by the inevitable ending.

I was most excited to see how the tunnel itself would be created. I’m extremely claustrophobic and was preparing myself to be a little triggered…I wasn’t. The set up for the tunnel was clever in its minimalism but lost the confining, close, ‘about to cave in on you, I can’t breathe’ feel that I associate 100 metre tunnel 30 feet underground. Unintentionally, it almost seemed to suggest it was easy and relatively swift, compared to what I imagine to be the gruelling reality. The tension just wasn’t there for me. It was clever, but it didn’t illicit the emotional reaction I was expecting.

 Credit: Andrew Billington

The second half brought stunning ensemble choreography as the escape attempts progress. Physical theatre moves our character through trains, mountains and borders, all whilst genuinely fearing he would be caught by the faceless Gestapo. Unfortunately, again sound let this down. Michael Hugo, as ‘Bob’ takes us on his incredible journey, beautifully supported by the whole cast, but his dialogue was often lost due to poor sound quality. What was otherwise a brilliant performance (and somewhat of a highlight in terms of the choreography) was undermined by not being able to hear much of the dialogue.

Whether through intentional fourth wall breaks and reference to Steve McQueen or unintentional distractions of clunking furniture and bad sound, there was just too much to take me out of the story to allow me to enjoy how beautiful the story is and how much research went into this production. Ultimately, it didn’t make me cry – this may not seem like a criteria for many, but a story of such bravery, imagination and force of will, not to mention the devastating reality of the shear amount who lost their lives, I should have been bawling. And I just wasn’t.

Ultimately, I recommend seeing Tom, Dick and Harry for: the clever staging, lighting and projection, a (more) historically accurate version of events (no whistling I’m afraid), and the energy of the cast (but I hope they’ve sorted their sound by the time you do!)

Tom, Dick and Harry is on at the Alexandra Palace Theatre until 31st of August.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
    Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
    The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
    Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
    Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE

Leave a Reply