Writers: David Croft and Jimmy Perry
Director: Owen Lewis
“Stupid boy”, “We’re doomed”, “Don’t panic!”
Some of the great classic lines and catchphrases from Dad’s Army became so popular and well-known that even now, over thirty years since the final episode aired, everyone who’s watched the programme can instantly relate to them.
Although the run ended in 1977, Dad’s Army has remained popular with audiences, and as recently as 2016 a new film was released. It’s hardly surprising then that the programme would also turn up on the radio, and here it is – hot on the heels of the Old Joint Stock’s hugely popular radio version of Miracle on 34th Street we have Dad’s Army Radio Show.
David Benson and Jack Lane bring the classic sitcom beautifully back to life armed only with two microphones and a bank of sound effects. It’s an affectionate tribute to the old characters, and here we find pretty much all the popular ones. With no props and no scenery, everything has to be portrayed using only the power of the performances, and the pair carry it off wonderfully. It’s not just the reproduction of the voices, which are uncannily accurate, but more. They seem to practically inhabit each character they’re portraying, and the first laughs come as soon as the initial lines are spoken. We get the title music and a brief introduction to set the scene, and Benson delivers the first lines as Sergeant Wilson – and on top of the well-known voice and delivery, he gives us all the expressions and mannerisms we remember well. The half-smile that flickers on and off, the eye-rolling, the little gestures, and it’s these as much as the dialogue that create the humour.
Each time we get a new character, we see the same sort of thing – and there’s some 25 or so of them. Lane’s Captain Mainwaring, Pike, Jones – Benson’s Wilson, Godfrey, Frazer, Verger, all magnificently reproduced before our eyes and ears. It’s not only the men either, as Lane does a fine version of Mrs Pike, and Benson responds with Mrs Fox. One of the joys is watching a performer in dialogue with himself, as he jumps between two or even three characters, trying to get the right voice for the right lines and almost always carrying it off – not an easy feat.
Unlike some other stage radio plays the sound effects here are all recorded, and they don’t always go entirely to plan – but that doesn’t throw the performers in any way, as they respond to the problem entirely in character and move on.
The performance comprises three episodes – When You’ve Got to Go, My Brother and I and the final episode, broadcast in 1977, Never Too Old which ends with a toast to the Home Guard. A fitting end to a wonderfully funny evening that will have you smiling from start to finish.
Runs until 26 January 2020