For theatre... online, non-professional, amateur
Dad’s Army

Dad’s Army

Dad’s Army, written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, is one of the nation’s best loved sit-coms, appearing high in the charts of all-time favourites. Originally a television series, running from 1968-77, with a Radio Four series from 1974-76, there have been many spin offs, including a best forgotten 2016 film with a starry array of actors. The names and characters appearing in the WWII-based comedy series about a Local Defence Volunteer Force platoon in Walmington-on-Sea, are embedded in the national memory of a baby-boom generation, and lines, such as Private Arthur Frazer’s, ‘We’re Doomed!’, and Captain Mannering’s ‘Stupid Boy!’, (of Private Pike), widely caught on as catchphrases.

Over half a century has passed since it all began, and I wonder how Mrs Pike’s veal and ham pie, and the gentle humour of a past age will go down, in David Benson & Jack Lane’s new stage radio show?

The live streaming event by Fane Productions is excellent once it begins, although I do have difficulties with the link, which doesn’t work for me, and takes me in concentric circles; however, a support service rectifies this. The incidental music provided by the production company in the short time before streaming begins is out of character and generic, and I feel that I am waiting on a telephone line, and would have benefitted with music more in line with the ambience of the streamed production following.

Viewing a streamed performance of a stage show of a radio show, takes a few moments to get my head around, and I close my eyes, listening to the twenty-five voices played by the two actors, before quickly become acclimatized. The venue is the Crazy Coqs Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly, an intimate cabaret setting, with audience seated at suitably distanced tables with warmly flickering lamps, and a masked waiter serving drinks.

The show takes place in front of a red velvet curtain, and the small stage simply set with two microphones, script stands, an old-fashioned radio perched midway on a travelling trunk, with a white tin mug on each side. There is lighted ‘On Air’ sign. Stage lighting is dim, and the actors and props softly lit.

The voices of the characters, recognisable from those in the TV series, are excellent. The show would work perfectly well as a stand-alone radio sit-com, but the point of the two actors playing twenty-five characters, with their accompanying mannerisms would be lost, which would be a pity, because between them, David Benson & Jack Lane, are a tour de force.

The show is fast paced, with voices, facial expressions, and body language, seamlessly woven. The scripts are used so subtly, one hardly notices them. Once or twice, a line is late coming, and the pair use the opportunity for small ad libs, much to the amusement of the audience. Comic timing and vocal clarity are immaculate. Music of the day is used throughout with effect, and the initial sound effects of an air raid siren, with extracts from announcements from figures of the day, such as Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill, effective for setting the scene. The two actors, simply dressed in khaki, enter after an announcement of the formation of a Local Defence Volunteer force.

The idea of a stage show, as a radio show, comes from David Benson, who describes it as ‘the best idea I ever had’, and of inviting Jack Lane to perform it with him, ‘the second-best idea I ever had! We love ‘Dad’s Army’ as much as our audiences do, and it is a privilege for us to have the opportunity to share our delight in our nation’s best-loved sit-com with audience’s all over the UK.  Our aim has always been to be as true to the original, in finding the voices and mannerisms of the characters as possible. No messing about it with it, or trying to be cleverer than it was, by sending it up.’

The two-man show, road tested at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe as Dad’s Army Radio Hour, and was well received, and the estate of David Croft pleased. In 2019 the retitled Dad’s Army Radio Show went on tour, but then the pandemic struck. The current show features three newly adapted episodes for stage.

The scripts, adapted from the original television series, aren’t belly laughs, and differ from sit-coms of today, where guffaws must come every few seconds, but they are amusing, and have a charm all of their own.

Does the show stand alone as a stage show? Yes. Will it be enjoyed by audiences unfamiliar with the original series? Yes. To see the two actors, so obviously enjoying themselves at the start of their tour, after over a year of darkness, is a joy to see, and their consummate professionalism shines throughout.

  • : admin
  • : 30/07/2021