Enter a lost world where men were men, boys were boys and boy scouts were - well, something else altogether. In the tradition of Ripping Yarns, with a nod to the double entendre world of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and the Carry On films, we find ourselves in the company of four lads from the First Little Poddington Scout Troupe. The boys are on their way to British India for a jamboree with scouts from all over the Empire when their plane is hijacked and crash lands in Afghanistan. From then on it’s dastardly deeds meets scout ingenuity as they face and foil a plot that threatens the stability of the British Raj.
Who’s who and where their loyalties lie is not always clear but the plucky four succeed in their endeavours and learn more than a few things about themselves; never more so than in the play’s final revelations.
Set against a painted backdrop of the world in the 1930s, an image of an British Empire on which the sun never sets, director Terence Barton’s fast-paced piece is presented in a stiff upper lip style that perfectly parodies the attitudes of the times.
We are led through the tale by the editor of the Scout Magazine (superbly performed by Mark Farrally), for whom this story is just one of a number of contributions. Farrally has great rapport with the audience and delights in countering comments which he encourages in true stand-up style.
The four lads’ unique personas make for interesting pairings when they are separated after the crash: the ex-public schoolboy wimp, Lance, sensitively played by Alastair Mavor, has to cope with Dick, the team leader, played as an awkward, power-mad bully by Christopher Birks. Chris Finn's Donald Pretty is a classic little boy, an obsessive fantasist who dreams of fighting battles in the air against the Red Baron. After the crash he ends up with Henry Schmit (played with great strength and understanding by Brage Bang), who provides food for thought when he compares the scouts to the Hitler Youth.
Whilst Glenn Chandler's script is a little uneven some great moments of tension and comedy are to be found in the many characters portrayed by Tim Welling: scout master, British military attaché, Afghan warrior and Russian soldier, each is a little gem and makes Scouts in Bondage worth a visit.
- Dave Jordan