Friday, 21 June 2013
Above Us the Waves
A simple premise - confusion. All "Navy Lark" plots are that. Centred around Sub Lieutenant Philips, played by Leslie P. Whether it's his love life - chasing Heather Chasen, trying to tie down Petty Officer Pertwee or dealing the the numbskulls in the Admiralty all is confusion. It is simple, unrefined slapstick and I love it.
If there are deep satirical messages, or agit-prop humour hidden in those scripts I haven't found them. All I see is end of the pier, Punch and Judy humour. The characterizations are gross, the jokes childish but I and the audiences loved it.
Tonight's episode was a dream. Impossibly lovely Leslie is called before a promotion board. Leslie , whose navigation skills makes Beagle 2 seem like a walk in the park, can't believe it, no one else can. So unexpected is this that he is, mistakenly called before a court martial. Philips, the oldest Sub Lieutenant in the Navy, learning of the promotion board gets ideas above his station. Emblazoned jimjams and swimming trunks, Admiral Philips aka Christian Philips sets himself up for a humungous fall.
It was the promotion/court martial scene that was wonderous. The audience were in love with it, so much laughter and good will flowed out of the old valve set. Ronnie Barker and Michael Bates hamming it up something rotten with wonderful comic voices which had the audience in stitches. With dear Leslie sailing through oblivious to it all - it ever was.
For many the "Navy Lark" will seem like tired, hackneyed humour, of an age which outlawed homosexuality, where politicians lied knowing no one dared question. When Notting Hill equated to race riots and multi-occupation not million pound properties. Yet...for me the programme is a simple joy. Rather like a Whitehall Farce before we got rather too sophisticated. Like "Noises Off" without the steely eyed Ackbourne under cutting our innocent humour. Like "Privates on Parade" without the pathos and knowingness of Peter Nichols.
It wasn't an age of innocence - by no means. But the "Goons", " Hancock" and "The Navy Lark" have for me at least the exuberance of Tom Hulce's Amedaus without any intellectual baggage. It is just the joy of the humour, the laughter, the sense of sheer well being.
Give me that.. and "Basil the Rat" and you can leave me on any Desert Island.