Home » London Theatre Reviews » Dad’s Army Radio Show at Wilton’s Music Hall | Review

Dad’s Army Radio Show at Wilton’s Music Hall | Review

It’s been done before, and I don’t mean this particular production, which has been going in some form or other every year (international public health restrictions aside) since the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A helpful note in the show’s programme informs readers that sixty-seven episodes of the radio version of Dad’s Army were recorded between 1973 and 1975 – and can still be purchased on CD, for anyone who still has a compact disc player knocking about somewhere. (What the programme doesn’t tell us is that there appear to be audio downloads available to purchase too for anyone who doesn’t.)

David Benson and Jack Lane in Dad's Army Radio Show.
David Benson and Jack Lane in Dad’s Army Radio Show.

In keeping with the idea of a ‘recording’ for radio, the Dad’s Army Radio Show doesn’t have a huge amount in the way of staging – a couple of microphones and scripts and one heck of a lot of versatility as David Benson and Jack Lane share between them around two dozen characters, give or take across three television episodes, adapted for live ‘radio’ on stage (if you can get your head around what the production is aiming for). Each episode is ‘recorded’ in one take, and the very occasional slip-up does not mean someone playing the role of a recording studio executive yells ‘Cut!’, but rather there’s a quick backtrack, or otherwise a little improvisation to cover the blooper.

To maintain the relatively rapid rhythm of the ‘broadcast’, an actor sometimes voices both parts of a conversation, such that one is looking at someone effectively having a disagreement with himself. But these actors’ ability to switch from one character to another, then a third, and so on, is impressive and seamless. Never overdone, there were sporadic moments when they played to the gallery – I rather liked Lane’s seemingly ad-libbed “settle down!” in the voice of Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwaring after a hearty audience reaction to a punchline.

It was heartwarming to be reminded of the various Dad’s Army characters – I loved Sergeant Wilson’s quintessentially British command: “Would you all mind terribly falling in please? Thank you so much”. I’m not sure how well-received this production would be for someone not already familiar with Dad’s Army – at the performance I attended, I couldn’t find anyone who fell into that category. And why would I? Clearly there are still enough fans of the show who would come out to see this production, and fair play to the producers for finding their target audience.

It’s one of those shows where the cast are evidently enjoying themselves on stage, which rubs off on the audience’s enjoyment of the production. There’s more to it than a couple of people stood talking into microphones – to go with the Army (well, the Home Guard) uniforms, where gestures, mannerisms and facial expressions. An entertaining evening of wit and nostalgia with spot-on comic timing, delivered at a pace brisk enough for contemporary audiences to enjoy whilst bringing back to life a sitcom from a generation ago about life a generation before that.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The original television episodes newly minted for The Dad’s Army Radio Show 2024 national tour are:

The Love of Three Oranges
A church bazaar is organised for the “Comforts for the Troops Fund”. Hodges intends to auction three oranges, and Capt. Mainwaring is determined to get hold of one for Mrs Mainwaring.

The Miser’s Hoard
When Frazer is revealed to have a secret stash of gold sovereigns, Mainwaring believes he must hand them over for safe keeping.

The Making of Private Pike
Pike borrows Mainwaring’s staff car to drive his new girlfriend to the cinema in Eastgate. On the way back, however, and nine miles from Walmington, it runs out of petrol.

As seen on Dad’s Army: The Animations (UKTV Gold), David Benson (Goodnight Sweetheart and One Man, Two Guvnors) and Jack Lane (Wisdom of a Fool and 7 Days) will transport you right back to Walmington.

The 2024 tour is dedicated to the memory of Ian Lavender, the last surviving member of the original Dad’s Army cast, who died earlier this year.

Jack Lane and Something For The Weekend present
DAD’S ARMY RADIO SHOW 2024
Wilton’s Music Hall
17 to 22 June 2024

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