Photo: Andrew Billington

Tom, Dick & Harry, co-written by Andrew Pollard, Michael Hugo and Theresa Heskins, is a creative re-telling of classic Steve McQueen film The Great Escape. The film was based on the book of the same name by Paul Brickhill, which tells the first-hand account of prisoners of war escaping the German camp Stalag Luft III during the Second World War. It makes for compelling viewing at London’s Alexandra Palace Theatre, which has been transformed into the round. The night that we visited, the balcony was out of use, ensuring all audience members were close to the action – some in the front row were even involved, thanks to a little audience participation.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, it focuses on the lives of the prisoners as they plot a daring escape from the ‘inescapable’ camp. They decide their best bet is to dig a trio of tunnels – the titular Tom, Dick & Harry – in tandem, so that if one is discovered they have back up options. They rally together, utilising their individual civilian skills to either further the escape effort, or distract the German guards from their scheming.

While the subject matter may be serious, the storytelling is anything but – it’s amusingly silly. At the start of the play we’re introduced to a translation device, which explains why all our characters are speaking in English, albeit with German accents and, on occasion, syntax. It’s a chirpy, good-natured show, full of upbeat music and entertaining set-pieces – there’s a lot of well-executed physical comedy here. There’s all sorts going on, whether that’s a gym routine, a boxing match or a Christmas musical revue – it’s a play with plenty of variety, which is necessary given the running time spans more than two and a half hours.

It makes for an enjoyable night out. We felt it could have benefited from a little trimming, and there are only a handful of moments where our protagonists seemed to be in real peril – given how dangerous the mission was, there were only a few occasions that felt genuinely exciting. Overall, though, we had a good time with Tom, Dick & Harry – it’s an imaginative re-telling of a compelling story, with a charm that’s hard to resist.

GAY TIMES gives Tom, Dick & Harry – 4/5

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