Skip to main content Skip to footer site map



Review: INSTRUCTIONS FOR AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN BRITAIN, Jermyn Street Theatre In 1942, the American War Office issued a pamphlet titled Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain to prepare the nation's soldiers for a life abroad defeating the Nazis.

In the riotous comedy by the same name created by Fol Espoir and The Real McGuffins, Americans and Brits come face to face with odd traditions, debatable food habits, and a shared language that couldn't sound more different.

Directed by John Walton and created by Dan March, Jim Millard, Matt Sheahan, and Walton himself, the play is heavy-handed on the stereotypes but genuinely funny. The company incorporates the notion that the public are troops who, just the night before, went on a rampage in a small village and need to learn how to behave in the old world, which facilitates some cringeworthy yet ultimately passably funny audience participation moments.

"We're Americans, we don't apologise to anyone" says Schultz when faced with an order for his troops to express remorse towards the villagers they hurt during their night out. The friendlier, more hands-on, brand new way of life the American soldiers display is contrasted with the British Major's approach, which is "grounded in history, rooted in tradition". March, Millard, and Shehan (respectively playing two American and one British soldiers) go head to head throughout the whole show, making fun of the other nation's country's tics and only rarely coming together in earnest acceptance (over food and lovers).

With both parties being mocked and derided, the play becomes a balanced and hilarious parody of difficult war times. The performers are witty and absurdly engaging in portraying their characters' national pride, even at the cost of coming up with ridiculous and carefully expressed insults in order to belittle the others.

With the fumbling Major's attempts to instil some sense and British honour in the Americans, the constantly growling and order-barking American Colonel's jabs at everything British, and the sympathetically proud Schultz who tries to bring order and meet them in the middle, the piece is fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining.

Sheahan embodies British awkwardness and loyalty to the crown. His quirks range from being passionately into coin collecting (which leads him to try to explain the workings of British money) to a more subtle, passive-aggressive attitude (which suddenly transforms into a politely furious counter to the Americans soldiers' insults).

Millard and March are brilliant as characters on the opposite end of the spectrum. Ardent American pride and readiness to endure hardship permeate the pair, who are both quite cocky and amusingly antithetical to Sheahan. Millard's lovable all-American-boy's smile is as humorous as March's tough stance.

Walton's direction ties the production together, spotlighting the performers' inherently funny personas, but it is the bold chemistry among the three actors that makes the show a successful comedy which transcends its stereotypes.

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until 29 July.

Related Articles View More UK / West End Stories

From This Author - Cindy Marcolina