Review: Dad's Army Radio Show
Image: Wilton's Music Hall
Two actors play 25 characters in this brilliant staging of three classic radio episodes based on favourite scripts from the original TV series.
Double Fringe First Award winner David Benson (star of Think No Evil Of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams and Boris: World King) and Jack Lane (Wisdom Of A Fool) present a selection of classic radio episodes featuring favourite lines, cherished characters and great feats of vocal impersonation!
Celebrating 50 years of Perry and Croft's quintessential sitcom, which won the Best One-Liner accolade in a poll of comedians conducted by Gold, with the immortal words "Don't tell him, Pike".
Mum's Army, The Deadly Attachment and Round And Round Went The Great Big Wheel
Starring just two actors - David Benson and Jack Lane - this show reformats the ever-popular BBC sitcom Dad's Army, about one platoon in the 1.5 million strong volunteer force, the Home Guard, recruited to stave off the advance of enemy invasion of the UK during the Second World War.
Composed of those too old or too young for service in the regular military forces, or those serving in 'reserved occupations', the Home Guard provided writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft with diverse personalities across age groups and occupations to provide rich situational comedy that has endured for half a century.
In Dad's Army Radio Show, Messrs Benson and Lane take us on an engaging trip down memory lane by recreating a trilogy of episodes from the still-popular BBC series and, between them, bringing all the characters to life again.
The first half of the show finds Captain Mainwaring and his troops having to combat a rogue secret weapon in 'Round And Round Went The Great Big Wheel', followed by 'Mum's Army', in which Mainwaring decides to admit women into his platoon and subsequently falls for one of the new recruits.
And the second half sees the acting team tackling the story where the men have to temporarily guard some German POW's - an episode that included one of the greatest one-liners ever.
The choice of episodes here is perfect, providing contrast and balance, especially given the inclusion of Mum's Army, which lends a touch of humanity to the overbearing character of Captain Mainwaring, and reaching a fitting crescendo in the finale where the platoon encounter a devious enemy.
Standing outside the theatre during the interval for a wintry breath of air (for which read "nicotine") I overheard a man talking to his friend about the first half - "bloody talented", he said of the actors.
That might not be quite the most elegant description in terms of theatrical criticism, but it pretty-much sums up Jack Lane and David Benson's formidable performances succinctly and accurately.
For they most certainly are "bloody talented", and rather brilliantly directed by Owen Lewis to boot.
Slipping with quick-fire and consummate ease between a plethora of characters, the duo create a radio broadcast for us, which at first mention might seem less engaging than the TV counterpart.
But Messrs Benson and Lane inject the scripts with much more than mere vocal mimicry, and do so with very little in the way of movement in presenting the numerous and very different characters.
A slight wave of the hand from David Benson is enough - along with plummy vocalisation - to perfectly capture Sergeant Wilson.
And Jack Lane only needs to puff out his stomach a touch to superbly describe the sometimes blunderingly officious Mainwaring.
The radio show setting is suitably embellished with sound effects in Tom Lishman's excellent sound design, deftly topping-off the captivatingly entertaining and humorous proceedings.
If you've got any notion that this show is raiding the Dad's Army comedy larder for merely exploitative purposes, then best think again.
Though this show certainly relies for some of its success on the original characters and scripts, the format and the enormous skill of these two gifted performers is more than enough to add a new dimension to Dad's Army - with some splendidly comic moments of ad-libbing, including (gentle) remonstrations directed at a crisp-eating audience member.
That all makes Dad's Army Radio Show a glorious evening of live theatre with plenty of nostalgic laughs - stunning stuff.
And, finally ... if you live outside London and can't make the run at Wilton's Music Hall, you may be interested to know that the show is on a lengthy tour - check out dates and stop-offs here.
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ActDrop listing for Wilton's Music Hall
Our show listing for Dad's Army Radio Show
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