IT was not a case of "Pick me" but he will "Pick you" before you even apply when Robert Readman was casting for Pick Me Up Theatre's Privates On Parade.

Readman's production of Peter Nichols' 1977 play with songs will be staged at the John Cooper Studio Theatre @41Monkgate, York, from Friday to March 16, with its story of the outrageous antics of a song-and-dance unit staging concert parties for British troops in Singapore after the Second World War.

Nichols’ farce follows the journey of naive Private Steve Flowers after he is posted to the SADUSEA entertainment unit in South East Asia. There he meets fabulously flamboyant Captain Terri Dennis, who brings a whole new meaning to army camp with his cross-dressing routines.

Among those joining Rory Mulvihill's Captain Dennis will be James Potter's Private Flowers, Adam Sowter's Lance Corporal Charles Bishop and Iain Harvey's Leading Aircraftman Eric Young-Love.

"You don't normally audition for Robert's shows; you get asked!" says Iain. "Or if you do ever audition, he casts you in another show instead," says James.

"Primarily, I'm a singer and dancer, but this time it's more acting that I do, which is totally not my comfort zone," says Iain.

"My character is a posh boy, who thinks he's better than the others. He's a bit of a wally, really! He's described as being 20, plain, ungainly, sweating profusely and having a demotic manner, whatever 'demotic' means!

"I have to say, it's a part I'm really unfamiliar with, as I normally play a comedic idiot or villain, so this character is rather different from that.

"I've been practising the posh accent and swatting up on card tricks as well, as he's a something of a magician."

Private Flowers is a "20-year-old untouched, innocent conscript, fresh out of school and virginal". "So he's a bit taken aback at first when he enters into the world of this play," says James.

"He's used by Nichols to introduce the audience to the characters as he is introduced to them himself.

"It's not a role I would have gone for, honestly, or cast myself as, and it's hard when you have to be the 'straight man' with all the comedy going on around you, but Robert must have seen something in me!"

Adam Sowter was a natural fit for playing cheeky dipstick Private "Stupid Boy" Pike in Pick Me Up's Dad's Army last autumn, but Lance Corporal Charles Bishop is poles apart from Adam and Pike alike. "When Robert described him to me, he said Charles was '20, but losing his hair, putting on weight, camp but motherly'. Not me at all!" he says.

Nevertheless, Adam is enjoying taking on the role. "Charles is one of the play's openly gay characters, in an openly gay relationships, where he may a bit cynical by nature, but you can tell he's found a little happiness that he knows he can never have back home," he says.

Sowter, a gifted comedic performer and a dab hand on the piano too, jokes that he is "constantly reminded I'm not a dancer" by the play's demands he should do exactly that: dance, dance, dance! Nevertheless, he and Iain, James and the rest will be ready by opening night. "And we'll be doing it in Army boots," he says.

As for Rory Mulvihill, playing Captain Terri Dennis after his outstanding Sergeant Wilson in Pick Me Up's 50th anniversary Dad's Army show, such is his perfectionism that apparently he will be "blond-tinting" his grey-white hair to differentiate from a role still fresh in the memory.

"As it's another Army play, people might think we're doing it as a follow-up to Dad's Army, but you definitely won't be able to bring your granny to it," says Adam.

Pick Me Up Theatre in Privates On Parade, John Cooper Studio Theatre @41Monkgate, York, March 8 to 16, 7.30pm nightly. Box office:

Charles Hutchinson