There are few comedic institutions as beloved as Dad’s Army. 50 years on, it is still considered one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time and continues to be aired on the BBC and adapted in new and interesting ways (the 2016 film aside).
There is a great deal of comfort that comes from Dad’s Army, and one certainly feels that upon entering the Brunton Theatre as Bud Flanagan’s classic theme song plays in the background, before picking up to welcome the two actors, David Benson and Jack Lane to the stage as the ‘ON AIR’ sign illuminates.
Dad’s Army Radio Hour itself is basically what it says on the tin: a triple bill of classic Dad’s Army episodes adapted from Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s original scripts, presented in the style of a radio show. The nature of these episodes further builds on audience nostalgia, as those familiar with the original series will find a great deal of enjoyment as they experience classic moments first-hand. The greatest laughs arise from the more memorable lines like “Don’t tell him, Pike!”.
At the same time, there is a great deal to enjoy here for those less familiar with Dad’s Army, which is perhaps a testament to Perry and Croft’s scripts. They remain as sharp and witty as when they were first written. While any slapstick humour is ultimately lost due to the performance’s presentation as a radio show format, the scripts are adapted in such a way that it is not necessarily missed, albeit for one sequence during The Day the Balloon Went Up. However, some concession is made as Benson and Lane do exhibit some physicality to complement their words.
The performances by Benson and Lane themselves are wonderful, despite the unenviable task of uniquely vocalising 25 characters. For the most part, this is done perfectly which may be no surprise considering the versatility demonstrated by the two actors in their previous works. Benson’s near-perfect impersonations of Sergeant Wilson and Private Walker, as well as Lane’s Captain Mainwaring are stand-outs. That said, some characters are somewhat forgettable, with their voices feeling repetitive, however this is only really the case for a few minor characters.
Any complaints are certainly minor though, as Dad’s Army Radio Hour is a fantastic way for audience members to experience a cherished sitcom and keep its legacy alive.