Crazy Coqs, London
Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Directed by Owen Lewis
|David Benson and Jack Lane|
Originally penned as a radio show back in 1968, Dad’s Army could be described as unique in its comedic genre: despite being dated, somehow this comedy series centred around the doings of a Home Guard platoon in the fictional town of Walmington-On-Sea during World War II, manages to survive and is still much-loved (although, one suspects, probably by more senior audiences).
The genius of the original series was of course not only its inspired casting, but also the incisive wit of its writers, who managed to lovingly satirise so much of England's classic charm within their scripts. From radio, to television sit-com, to stage and screen translations, this latest iteration of Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s brilliantly observed comedy masterpiece is a selection from the TV series’ latter episodes, all newly adapted for stage but performed here as a radio show – and thus the form in which it was first presented. As such, there are scripts on stands and microphones on stage and even an old-fashioned radio atop a cabin trunk centre stage. What makes this production unique however is that the show’s twenty-five-plus characters are played by just two actors!
A tour de force indeed, and it has to be said that the duo of David Benson and Jack Lane, dressed in khaki uniforms as befits the Home Guard, rise to the challenge admirably. The latter’s portrait of Private Pike, the wet-behind-the ears youngest member of the platoon is spot-on and he segues, seemingly effortlessly, into the voice of the unit’s Captain Mainwaring. Equal kudos must go to Benson, brilliant as the voice of laid-back Sergeant Wilson and more. The comic timing is excellent and any inadvertent pauses are well covered up by ad-libs, much appreciated by the live audience.
Even the female voices are well managed and if there was the occasional corpsing it was in the main managed well. Interestingly the evening's radio play format allows for an amazingly comprehensive picture of the mores of the time. Opening with Churchill’s famous ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ speech and with atmospheric musical interjections, it is all very effective.
Dad's Army Radio Show makes for an evening of charmingly witty nostalgia, immaculately performed.
Touring across the UK from September. Tickets via this link
Reviewed by Barbara Michaels