Dad’s Army Radio Hour is a live audio performance, featuring two classic episodes of the much-loved comedy show. With just two men performing all of the roles, it’s time to travel to Walmington-on-Sea… and find out what trouble Mainwaring and company have got themselves into now.
In case – somehow – you don't already know Dad’s Army, it's a British TV series that originally aired from 1968 to 1977. Set during the Second World War on the south coast of England, it chronicled the exploits of the local Home Guard – the last defence in case of invasion, made up of chronically-underequipped local volunteers who were ineligible to serve in the armed forces. The radio scripts were adapted from TV episodes while the series was still on air, and they are still repeated now, over 40 years later. This is a testament to the writing: they haven’t aged, with their gentle humour and mild innuendo as funny today as they ever were.
There are two different versions of this live show, each featuring two half-hour episodes. On the day I attended it was Brain vs. Brawn and The Deadly Attachment – the second of these being arguably the most famous episode of the entire series, thanks to the immortal line "Don’t tell him, Pike!" This is a radio-style performance in the purest sense, with just two lecterns and radio microphones for a set. This, coupled with the plain, unadorned army uniforms the actors are wearing, provides a simple distraction-free setting, and allows the scripts and superlative voice performances to hold the attention they deserve.
All of the roles are performed by just two actors, and it is genuinely breathtaking how many characters each takes on. David Benson is, amongst many others, Sergeant Wilson, Private Frazer, Private Walker and Private Godfrey; Jack Lane, meanwhile, provides the voices for Captain Mainwaring, Lance Corporal Jones, Private Pike and more. Every one of the impersonations is spot on, and if you close your eyes it is entirely possible to believe you are watching the television episodes. Due to the frequent interactions between Lane’s characters, there are a number of occasions where he carries long scenes entirely on his own, switching back and forth for rapid fire-exchanges; all of these are flawless.
If you've ever seen Dad’s Army, then there is nothing substantially new here. But it’s a highly enjoyable way to experience such classic comedy, and a showcase for exceptional performances from both Benson and Lane.