Privates on Parade
About the work
Welcome to the Michael Grandage Company’s production of Privates on Parade by Peter Nichols
Private Steven Flowers is posted to the Song and Dance Unit South East Asia (SADUSEA) where, under the leadership of the flamboyant Captain Terri Dennis, he learns it takes more than just a uniform to become a man.
Peter Nichols’ semi-autobiographical account of the British Army in Singapore in 1948 is the starting point for one of the writer’s funniest and most theatrical works. Conceived in the form of a variety show, with music by Denis King, the staging of a concert party by SADUSEA is combined with the troupe’s tour through the Malayan countryside, pursued by Communist guerillas.
Simon Russell Beale plays the cross-dressing Captain Dennis, whose performances of Marlene Dietrich, Vera Lynn and Carmen Miranda form the centrepiece of this award-winning comedy, which charts the journey of young Private Flowers and his extraordinary rites of passage.
What Peter Nichols did brilliantly is create a drama with a murderous backdrop about a particular war at a particular time – the Malayan Emergency – but he has done it by following an amateur entertainment troupe into the jungle. So he is able to juxtapose a highly comic scenario against a dark drama, and for a director like me you get the best of all worlds. You get a full-on camp comedy with people putting fruit on their heads and a wonderful document about an under-recorded period of history. From a director’s point of view and an audience’s point of view it’s exciting and interesting all at the same time.’Michael Grandage, Artistic Director, MGC