Doodlebugs and Bogeymen

Tue 22nd November – Sat 10th December 2011

reviews

Mathew Jones

at 23:14 on 23rd Nov 2011

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I had no idea at all what to expect from Doodlebugs and Bogeymen: all I knew was that it was advertised as a World War II comedy so I was intrigued to see how far removed the production would be from a typical episode of ‘Dad’s Army’. Finding the theatre proved to be somewhat of an army manoeuvre in itself. One of the great shames of the Tobacco Factory is that it is hidden from the more well-heeled parts of town such as Clifton and Redland and, as I can personally attest to, is difficult to access by foot. This said when I finally did turn up at the Brewery theatre just across the road from the main Tobacco Factory I was instantly charmed by its unassuming and welcoming exterior.

The play itself is staged in the small but perfectly formed Brewery theatre. The play revolves around the evacuation experience of siblings Jean and Brian Milton, aged 14 and 11 respectively. The pair find themselves having to move from their homes in London to the safe countryside haven provided by their adopted uncle Ivor and aunty Olive. The production is put on by the ‘Ministry of Entertainment’: a talented, and tireless double act who regularly tour small theatres in the South West region. The classic formula of grown-ups acting as children once again works a treat and provides many endearing moments.

Jean takes the role of sensible older sibling as opposed to naughty, cheeky and perennially confused Brian. The pair are met by the initially frosty Ivor and Olive; Ivor especially is not impressed that Jean has no experience of farmyard tasks or driving a tractor. However, any frostiness soon thaws as the couple soon enjoy the company of the two spritely youngsters. The development of this relationship forms the central theme of the performance. The show unfolds swiftly and is kept at a nice tempo by the frequent dalliances into song. Most of these songs are, admittedly, aimed more at those of a certain age, but they are still enjoyable and it was touching to observe the other, older audience members singing along to songs they obviously had a personal connection to. There were a couple of references in the performance which may leave younger audience members scratching their heads but on the whole the script was extremely humorous and sweet natured which I am certain even the most hardened theatre critic would find hard not to enjoy.

Overall the show provides a charming and nostalgic representation of life and childhood during the Second World War. The story moves along at a good pace and is constantly punctuated with humour as well as a fair share of slightly more emotional and sad moments. The minimalist set and presence of only two cast members does nothing to detract from the performance and, for me, really highlights the intimacy of the whole affair. The ‘Ministry of Entertainment’ cannot be recommended highly enough: witty, well rehearsed, engaging and blessed with fantastic singing and projection. Doodlebugs and Bogeymen is well worth a look and provides a wonderfully charming evening of entertainment.

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Katie Sands

at 23:55 on 23rd Nov 2011

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This was the most talented Double Act I have seen for a long time – a highly amusing performance, which brought tremendous laughter to the people fortunate enough to be in the audience. Created upon a true story, prepare yourself for the fulfilment and entertainment that will be unleashed in the adventure to follow.

Doodlebugs and Bogeymen, by the comedic Ministry of Entertainment, takes you on a wartime escapade in the South West of England. A childhood essence is truly encapsulated through Jean (Kate McNab) and Brian (Ross Harvey), two siblings who leave their London lifestyle and close knit family behind and are transported Bristol bound, as evacuation called. The two children would certainly miss their parents, especially their father who performs the “hush hush” wartime job as a librarian. With no more than a small suitcase, an empty sandwich bag and a ration book, the sister and brother embark on their voyage to Severn Beach, with Jean frequently exasperated at her younger brother - “stop fiddling, you look like you’ve got worms”.

Upon arrival, the siblings exclaim with a crash and a bang that “they want to go home” and the uptake for the two new arrivals in the village certainly doesn’t look promising. The school headmistress, after advertising a generous payment of ten shillings per child, fails to attract a new set of parents for the young evacuees, leaving her with no choice but to cast them onto Mr and Mrs Brimble (also played by Harvey and McNab). And what a magical farmland journey would follow!

From droving on the farm, to charity Talent Contests, to the romantic daytrip to the beach, a beaming smile across your face is sure to ensue through the comedy value of this performance. Christmas celebrations prove to be particularly witty, as Jean shows compassion and understanding for Father Christmas who must “struggle to do his job with a war going on” culminating in Mr Brimble removing his precious brandy from the Christmas Eve fireplace to show his full support of rationing. Even more engaging is Mrs Brimble’s romanticised beach hut as likened to a gypsy caravan, and the village vicar’s apology to his congregation for the organist donating “organ pipes to the Saucepans for Spitfires”. An interesting and imaginative narrative was pursued throughout the entire piece, proving to be a fantastic addition to the masterpieces already on offer from the Ministry of Entertainment.

Harvey and McNab more than successfully live up to the myriad of roles of the multiple characters that they seek to portray, with perfect accents coupled with continual lively and humorous remarks. An inspirational and thoroughly gratifying performance to have the opportunity to see, Doodlebugs and Boyeymen promises to be an outstanding success and a perfect addition to Bristol’s 2011 festive theatrical scene.

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