Privates on parade Icon

Noel Coward Theatre

St Martin's Lane WC2N 4AH

Privates On Parade

Noel Coward Theatre MapMap ©Silvermaze Ltd 2008 Noel Coward TheatrePhoto by kind permission Tony Reading 2009
Show Details
Preview 1st Dec 12
Opens 10th Dec 12
Closes 2nd Mar 13
Show Times
Mon - Sat 7.30 pm
Matinee Weds & Sat 2.30 pm

Local Info
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A classic viewing of all the Theatreland play houses by night. The authentic commentary, by Ben Shafik - a player himself - gives an authentic feel to the West End's theatres - and is backed by real music.
Next version will be more upbeat as, suggested, to celebrate Britannia's unbeatable heritage.
(Over 6000 viewings and all good reviews to date).
Let us know what you think.

A note from the author

I took these pictures to show off London theatres as they are seen -most often - by theatre goers, at night.

Thanks to Ben Shafik for his lighthearted and informative commentary and Fionn O'Lochlainn for the original music.

Watch out for the new version with current liveries and the names of the theatres as they appear.




  • Simon Russell Beale - Captain Dennis
  • Chris Chan - Lee
  • Sophiya Haque - Sylvia Morgan
  • Harry Hepple - Lance Corporal Charles Bishop
  • Mark Lewis Jones - Sergeant-Major Reg Drummond
  • John Marquez - Corporal Len Bonny
  • Brodie Ross - Leading Aircraftman Eric Young-Love
  • Sam Swainsbury - Flight-Sergeant Kevin Cartwright
  • Joseph Timms - Private Steven Flowers
  • Sadao Ueda - Cheng
  • Angus Wright - Major Giles Flack

  • Director - Michael Grandage
  • Writer - Peter Nichols
  • Design - Christopher Oram
  • Lighting - Paule Constable
  • Choreography - Ben Wright
  • Costume - Christopher Oram
  • Musical Director - Jae Alexander
  • Producer - Michael Grandage Company


It's Malaya - and there is, in the jungle, a post ww2 'private' war; meaning it didn't get much press. The much discomforted soldiers there are sent a song and dance entertainment troupe to raise the morale of the troops who are combatting communism.  A private war means one of those undeclared ones that the Brits have from time to time to keep the military suitably occupied and the arms turning over.

Privates on parade - Cleese PosterThe entertainers have  been placed in the care of a mad sergeant who looks appealingly like Cleese on the poster (who played Sgt Flack in the 1982 film) only more seriously batty. Nobody wants to handle him except a camp (apparently this means only mildly gay) Private Flowers. Since the entertainment group are mostly homosexual and since the playwright Nicholas loved serious profanities (the brief definition of 'potty mouthed' used to describe this play) the play is thick with insults of an entertaining nature.


Leave your notebook in your bag. In case yoiu are stopped on the way home.

Privates on parade - Simon BealeFamous post-war entertainers like Marlene Dietrich, Vera Lynn and Carmen Miranda are parodied in the songs which are performed by Simon Russell Beale on stage - not as a conventional musical but these guys are entertainers after all as a 'service entertainment unit' for real. The cast are picked for their ability to play rather than mocking up the instruments a few weeks before the curtains rise. This 'entertainment unit' is really bloody good.

Male strippers are always popular in comedies and because of the colourful language and Yfronts this play earns its name as a comedy.

This show is perfect to take a girlfriend or boyfriend at that stage when you are wondering just how like yours is their sense of humour. This is important to check out before attempting to merge with their family for Christmas drinks and meeting potential in-law type people. The real test is to take them along as well.

Although some reviews say this is not a show for the kids let us not forget that South Park was based on ten year olds who apparently talk potty-mouthed all the time and switch it off when adults are near.... or maybe that's only in America?   you think?

Now that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a massive hit "the Book of Mormon' is soon to come to staid old England [not]. Maybe the family can all get used to being potty-mouthed together.  How else is appropriate to chat about war, suffering, unwanted pregnancy (possibly torture), cross dressing and - oh yes death in the jungle. Or don't you mention the war?

Privates on parade - Song & Dance

Hey kids love that stuff. It's an essential part of childhood prior to having the Pope's opinions to worry about and wonder where exactly DOES the line between right and wrong get drawn? - somewhere in the fuzzy part in the middle.... The Pope addressed this in his speech in which he apologised for his Jimmy-like priests.


"If you don't want to be left behind remember transvestites are now known as 'cross dressers'. The kids will pull you up on this as they have probably been taught this in sex lessons at school".

Because of the risk of going potty I must desist from either condemning or appraising this show - I don't want to be a spoiler in either sense. The Brits were first and best at humour in entertainment. We were the best at music hall 'double entendre' still WAY ahead in political satire - any satire in fact,  so best get along to this play lest the Yanks leap-frog us with the potty-mouthed Mormon show.

Or there's always Singin In The Rain if it's the OLDER generation we are worried about. Who among us makes it a habit to book tickets for granny or grandad to see a bit of potty?


"Save money - They can look after the ten year olds on the balcony and you parents can relax in the stalls".


"For the kids and grans pop corn is unlikely to be provided in the theatre foyer so grab a bucket from the cinema around the corner".

No seriously - relax. See it anyway.

© 2017 Updated 23rd March 2013