TOM, DICK & HARRY | London, Alexandra Palace

The Great Escape (1963) tells the true story of the mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Poland, but foregoes historical accuracy for the benefit of its American cast and audience. This all-male theatrical adaptation by Kenny Wax seeks to right these wrongs, and gives us a painstakingly detailed account of how things really went down, with a run time of nearly three hours.

Perhaps the strongest scene comes near the end, as we follow Bob (Michael Hugo) post-escape. Surrounded by a black-hooded, faceless ensemble in Nazi uniform, Bob’s long monologue and ingenious ensemble choreography shows us how he travelled across Europe, escaping threats, and finally charging over a barbed wire fence on a bike.

The run-up to the escape, and the escape itself, is not quite as thrilling. For a start, in the cavernous Alexandra Palace Theatre, we cannot hear the actors, despite the valiant efforts of the cast to work without microphones. Large amounts of time is given over to contrived scenes of homoerotic camaraderie, but it’s inconsistent with the finale’s grim telling of how fifty escapees were executed.

Audience are likely to enjoy the talented cast and the thrill of this famous story being told live on stage, but patience might be wearing thin by the end.

Book online at Alexandra Palace, playing 26 July – 28 August 2022.

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