Anyone of a certain age will be familiar with the much loved characters of Perry and Croft’s television series “Dad’s Army”. You’re probably humming “who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler” while reading this.
David Benson and Jack Lane brought the entire cast of Dad’s Army to life tonight working from original radio scripts but transferred to stage. Although originally billed as three episodes, there were two episodes played out tonight: “When You’ve Got To Go” and “Never Too Old” (which was the final episode of Dad’s Army).
The whole feel of the war years and the Home Guard was evoked from the very beginning, with an air raid siren and then snippets of famous wartime speeches from Chamberlain and Churchill before the familiar theme tune commenced.
I was a bit unsure at first whether it was working as a stage transfer but then I soon got into it. I looked away from the screen from time to time to imagine I was listening on the radio and it was hard to believe there were only two actors.
It was very enjoyable to be able to see their facial expressions, particularly David Benson’s when playing Mrs Fox, the fiancée of Mr Jones. They also have the mannerisms of each of the characters they played down to a tee.
As for their ability to impersonate the voices of at least twenty five characters between them – well this was absolutely astounding. Captain Mainwaring, Private Pike, Sergeant Wilson and Corporal Jones in particular were uncannily accurate, with all the correct intonation and delivery. Jack Lane delivered the two most well known catchphrases: “you stupid boy” and “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” with expert aplomb, while David Benson captured Sergeant Wilson’s gentle, dithering hesitancy with startling accuracy. I felt like I was listening to the original cast.
I was also able to identify all the other characters they played without any difficulty.
They were both dressed in Home Guard uniforms, complete with tin cups and a wireless on the stage. The sound effects were perfect and everything went smoothly, albeit there were a few fluffs but they covered them brilliantly with ad libs in character which were received very well by the audience and just added to the fun. Snatches of vintage wartime songs were played between each scene and it all really worked and brought it to life.
Benson and Lane are highly talented individuals who clearly love Dad’s Army. How they each managed to voice the multiple roles and make it look so easy I do not know but it was very enjoyable, highly effective and a lovely warm tribute to a British television institution which is loved by so many.
Reviewer: Nicky Lambert
Reviewed: 30th July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★