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24 September 2014
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Review: Yes, We Have No Bananas

Harry Mottram
BBC Somerset reviewer Harry Mottram checks out Yes, We Have No Bananas which was performed at The Rondo Theatre in Bath on Sunday 25 September, 2005.


Kate is a star. And even better, a West Country star.

All fans of drama and song must see, must hear, must experience Kate McNab on stage. She sings with a voice that seems one-part honey, one-part soul and one-part derived from the atmosphere of a snug bar on a Friday night.

In Yes, We Have No Bananas, she has a chance to reveal her range of performance skills.

As a singer and comic actor, McNab is the business. She relates and reaches out to her audience, who appeared, from my viewpoint, to embrace her as one of their own.

And yet she does not have a Hollywood face or figure. With her goofy teeth, mane of wavy, wild hair, and love handle hips, she is, however, the figure of the authentic every-woman whom she portrays.

It seems a little unfair to concentrate on Kate, as her partner in the play more than held his own.

Ross Harvey doubled up, with remarkable skill and lightning costume changes, as a number of characters, including Kate's father, boyfriend and uncle.

The plot

The play centres on Herbert and Daughter's Grocery Store, in Weymouth.

The year is 1944, and below in the bay, the Allies are assembling an armada to invade Nazi-held Normandy.

It was clearly an extraordinary time for the holiday resort, and the global events were refracted through the lives of those who entered the door of the grocery shop that year.

The two actors brought to life the stories of these ordinary folk with humour and authenticity, due to the fact they were all derived from aural histories recorded by the playwrights in their research.

The Ministry of Entertainment

The Ministry of Entertainment's trilogy of plays by Joe Hobbs and Kate McNab are based on true stories of World War Two.

Kate and Joe have interviewed people who witnessed the war firsthand in the South West, and have listened to their life stories to create genuine and socially accurate dramas.

The other plays are Keep Smiling Through, and Doodlebugs and Bogeymen.

Good humour and in-jokes

Yes, We Have No Bananas, is not sentimental, but full of earthy good humour and in-jokes.

My favourite aspect of the humour was derived from the two actors playing up the fact that the audience knew there was only a cast of two.

Sooner or later, due to the sitcom nature of the play's structure, more than two characters would have to appear.

It meant that the characters who were on stage could play up their concern that somebody else was about to enter, before finding, to their relief, that they could dash off stage to make a cuppa, or go to the lavatory, enabling a quick costume change and entrance as one of the expected characters.

The effect was high humour, with the audience enjoying this added farcical dimension to the drama.

The quick-fire dialogue was another strength, as the two actors literally bounced lines off each other with exquisite timing.

Songs and stories

But the duo's singing was perhaps the biggest draw.

They combined for a wonderfully silly version of the Java Jive, while sipping tea in the drawing room, and there were a couple of brilliant set-pieces that included The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, and the title song Yes, We Have No Bananas.

There was also Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree and Skylark, along with snatches of recorded music to give the right period feel.

If there is a criticism, the production could do with a little investment. There was an enjoyable Heath Robinson aspect to the set, with the counter doubling up for all manner of things.

However, with such attention to detail in terms of costume, songs, and customs, extra props, such as genuine tinned goods on the shop's shelves and knick-knacks in the living room, would give a more complete feel.

This is a minor point, as the couple played up the DIY nature of the set for extra laughs, which the audience seemed to enjoy.

It could also be suggested that the cast are a little long in the tooth to be playing the bright young things of 1944. It's fair comment. However, due to the storytelling nature of the play, and their humour, they get away with it.

Indeed, due to the nature of the show, having a few miles on the clock as an actor, when retelling these stories, adds to the drama's credibility.

last updated: 28/09/05
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