Ensa tribute Awful-ly good

THE DEFIANCE of Londoners ensured Hitler s bombers failed to break their will during World War Two and that spirit was in evidence at the Kenneth More Theatre last week. The Ilford theatre s re-creation of an Ensa concert (Every Night Something Awful) mar

THE DEFIANCE of Londoners ensured Hitler's bombers failed to break their will during World War Two and that spirit was in evidence at the Kenneth More Theatre last week.

The Ilford theatre's re-creation of an Ensa concert (Every Night Something Awful) marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the war and there were some poignant performances which brought the audience - which on the first night included Redbridge Mayor Cllr Thomas Chan - back to those dark days.

But it was one cast member who epitomised the spirit that the Nazis came up against. Hilda Hooper performed two songs for the audience - but they were not to know that the veteran opera singer took to the stage despite suffering from cracked ribs.

Hilda's rendition of In Room 504, was one of the many highlights of this highly polished show, which took the audience on a journey from the outbreak of war, marked by Chamberlain's doom-laden radio announcement, to the victory celebrations five years later.

In between times we had a gripping scene in a Tube station doubling as an air raid shelter, which ended with children being evacuated to the mournful tones of We'll Meet Again.

Reg Wheeler was excellent with Sandy Powell's The Day War Broke Out and Zoe Ellen made a fine fist of "Our Gracie" (Fields). We saw a sultry side of Loraine Porter with Red Hot Momma and My Yiddishe Mama, before Reg Wheeler donned the Bud Flanagan fur ably assisted by Howard Platt as Chesney Allen, for Underneath the Arches.

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For the few of us in the audience too young to have experienced the war, some of the songs were not familiar - although I realised how much time my 13-year-old son has spent watching war films and listening to Horrible Histories as he sang along to Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major.

The second half kicked off in cheerier tone, with Adolf Hitler getting a right royal ribbing and the appearance of "Marlene Dietrich" drawing a gasp from the audience. It wasn't long before people realised the face, caked with make-up, and body sporting bloomers and fishnets, belonged to theatre general manager Vivyan Ellacott. The comic timing of the performance was perfect and drew one of the loudest ovations of the night.

Steven Day, Owen Smith and Phillip Rowlands miming hilariously as the Andrews Sisters ran Viv a close second and Reg Wheeler pushed the boundaries as Max Miller, The Cheeky Chappie.

It was just left for a victory celebration to round off a rousing evening. It was a show as triumphant as the Allies' victory over evil, with superb performances from too many to mention, and illustrated the Blitz Spirit is far from dead.

- CHRIS CARTER

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