The premise of this show is very simple: two actor/impressionists (David Benson and Jack Lane) present a rotating pair of classic Dad’s Army radio episodes adapted from the originals in front of a live audience.
Now, it might seems a slightly odd proposition, initially, as the original episodes exist in the BBC archives and are still regularly repeated on Saturday evenings. Surely, if people wanted to see these classic stories then they’d watch them featuring Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, et al in the original televisual format? If the recent Dad’s Army film taught us anything then it’s that the British public aren’t too forgiving of an inferior reproductions.
Vitally the impressions from both actors are uncanny, but with enough of their own performances in the parts so that they aren’t just one-note copies. Jack Lane huffs convincingly as Captain Mainwearing, is suitably doddery as Corporal Jones and captures all the wearing immaturity of Private Pike. Benson, likewise, gives us a fey and fussy Sergeant Wilson, wheels and deals as Private Walker and reproduces all the belligerent idiocy of Warden Hodges. Between the two actors they recreate a cast of up two twenty characters, some of them female, all recognisable.
Of course the whole enterprise would fall on its backside if the scripts didn’t still pass muster. Fortunately, Croft and Perry’s dialogue still sings and there is the extra frisson from watching them performed live, both performers juggling the many parts shared between them at speed. Such is the verbal dexterity of Lane and Benson that while not making it look easy there’s never even the passing suspicion that they might trip or fumble the dialogue.
The Edinburgh show presents four episodes, two-per performance: ‘Brain versus Brawn’ (the platoon go on a military exercise), ‘The Day the Balloon Went Up’ (the one with the runaway barrage balloon), ‘My British Buddy’ (the platoon welcome some American soldiers) and ‘The Deadly Attachment’ (“Don’t tell him, Pike!”) This is a canny move as it means you can see the show twice. We were tempted to do so. Dad’s Army lives!
Dad’s Army Radio Hour will be appearing at The Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh (Venue 23) at 2.40pm until Monday 28th August.