Tweetingit: 4* Classic comedy given fresh impetus with two brilliant actors voicing an entire cast of characters. A real treat!
Shadowed by the gothic splendour of St. Pancras station sits the British Library. And buried deep inside its Knowledge Centre is a well-appointed theatre which played host to a wonderful production of the Dad’s Army Radio Show. Performed by David Benson and Jack Lane, the show initially aired at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017.
The idea is simple: to adapt episodes of Dad’s Army via a radio programme on stage. The show takes its inspiration from corresponding radio episodes made after the TV versions were shot. The result is a glorious recreation of the sitcom’s finest moments.
Stage props were restricted to a radio and two microphones; the lights dimmed as the former crackled into life. Haunting speeches by Churchill and Chamberlain quickly put the show into context. Clad in standard issue uniform, they took the stage and launched into an episode entitled When you’ve got to go; Frank Pike has received his call-up papers much to his mother’s distress.
The enormous range of both actors was apparent as they tackled a large cast of characters and accents. Jack Lane had Captain Mainwaring, Private Pike, Corporal Jones and Mrs Pike off to a tee; an extraordinary effort, bearing in mind the variation in ages and intonation. David Benson voiced Sergeant Wilson, Privates Fraser and Godfrey, ARP warden Hodges, Reverend Farthing and Verger Mr Yateman. The memorable interplay between characters is brilliantly captured, switching voices in a matter of seconds with seamless precision. The Second episode, My brother and I features Mainwaring’s drunken brother Barry; who turns up at a party for senior officers. Jack Lane took the part of Barry, which required him to cover both sides a conversation between the brothers; again perfectly executed.
Act II was a highly enjoyable Q + A session with David and Jack taking questions from the audience. They were joined by Frank Williams, one of only two survivors from the regular cast; he played Reverend Farthing and provided a perfect foil for the Verger’s rants. Now in his late 80s, but still sharp as a tack he provided some great insights. The esteem in which Dad’s Army is held can never be doubted. Reece Shearsmith of League of Gentlemen fame was in the audience and spoke in hushed tones of the show’s many qualities. Perhaps David Benson truly nailed it when he explained what Dad’s Army meant to him. He remembered it as a TV show he sat down to watch with his family. I can recall the same memories as a child. It was the golden age of TV sitcoms and Dad’s Army was at the epicentre. As a period piece it will never date; it remains a timeless example of brilliantly drawn characters and sublime casting. We also see the indomitable spirit of a nation at war; where bloody mindedness and humour was key to victory. The Dad’s Army Radio Show is a fine tribute to the genius of Jimmy Perry and David Croft and a unique ensemble of talented actors – gold stars all round!
Written by: Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Concept: David Benson
Producer: Suzanna Rosenthal/Something For The Weekend
Booking Until: Touring until 1