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Dad’s Army Radio Hour – 3.5 stars


Dad’s Army Radio Hour

Live at Zedel

Reviewed – 4th January 2018


“The impersonations are utterly uncanny”


Dad’s Army Radio Hour begins with a cod-BBC radio announcement, introducing the first episode of the evening. This sets the tone for the evening; David Benson  (Boris World King) and Jack Lane perform three radio adaptations of classic Dad’s Army scripts. As radio plays, the performance itself is a stripped-back affair, featuring no props or set pieces, and relying purely on the script and impersonations to engage the audience.

The impersonations are utterly uncanny. Lane in particular, already well known for the critically acclaimed Wisdom of a Fool, not only nails the voices, but observes the facial characteristics of the original characters with stunning accuracy. His imitation of Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwaring perfectly captures the toadlike double chin and swirling-eyed incredulity, and in the next instant transforms into the blithering Jones. Unfortunately, while Lane’s switching between distinctive characters is faultless, some of Benson’s sections, in which he voices multiple similar-sounding characters, can become muddled.

The episodic sitcom presentation of the show is handled perfectly. While other theatrical performances make use of lighting effects and set changes to establish scene changes, Dad’s Army Radio Hour achieves this purely through audio; by moving toward and further from the microphone, Lane (in particular) creates the effect of fading in and fading from a scene. However skilful, it sometimes feels as though Dad’s Army Radio Hour’s obedience to the conventions of radio plays is a hindrance rather than a help. More than one episode relies on visuals and slapstick, which naturally do not translate brilliantly to a purely vocal performance. These moments in particular feel like missed opportunities for laughs, where otherwise the audience reacts to jokes mostly with appreciative chuckles rather than uproar.

Benson and Lane are tight performers and have no intention of going off-script. This is a shame, because during one ad-libbed line-flub, the pair reveal themselves to be charismatic performers rather than persuasive facsimiles – and get the biggest laugh of the evening. At no point does Dad’s Army Radio Hour intentionally go beyond its self-appointed remit. While a skilful and charming production in its own right, this is Dad’s Army for purists at all costs; it’s an affectionate and accurate recreation of a fifty year-old sitcom with nothing added and very little taken away.


Reviewed by Matthew Wild


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Dad’s Army Radio Hour

Live at Zedel until 21st January



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A Spoonful of Sherman

Live at Zedel, Crazy Coqs

Reviewed – 9th August 2017





“… an unashamed nostalgia-fest”



As its title makes clear, the August offering at the Crazy Coqs is an unashamed nostalgia-fest. A Spoonful of Sherman: The Songbook of Your Childhood references that most famous of all dictums from the nation’s favourite nanny, and, as you would expect, sugary treats from Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book and Bedknobs and Broomsticks are liberally scattered throughout the marathon 39 song programme.

The Shermans truly are a songwriting dynasty, and we are guided through the evening by Robert J. Sherman, who gives us a whistle-stop biographical tour as a punctuation to the music. Robert is a songwriter himself, who clearly takes enormous pride in his extraordinary family history. He is a genial host – a little on the diffident side – and his evident pleasure at sharing the music of his grandfather, and his father and uncle, is charming, as is his obvious delight at hearing the suite of his own songs, which appear towards the end of the evening. This reviewer could have done without the sentimental underscore, and some of the weightier bits of biographical info seemed ill-matched to the occasion, but, in general, this somewhat old-fashioned format suited both the material and the venue.

Cast Sherman

The evening did lack a bit of sparkle however, and this could have been addressed by trimming the programme. Both Helena Blackman and Daniel Boys were in fine voice, but frequently seemed hampered by the lesser material. In addition, Christopher Hamilton, on piano, provided a couple of excellent and much-needed bravura comic cameos, but the zip was then too often lost. I Wanna Be Like You would have been a natural segue from The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers, for example, but instead the pace was brought right down by My Own Home, surely the least inspiring song on The Jungle Book soundtrack. In a similarly odd bit of programming, it seemed deliberately contrary to introduce the wonderful Al Sherman classic, There’s a Harbour of Dreamboats, as a Frank Sinatra favourite, and then give it to Blackman to sing.

These programming peccadilloes are indeed just that, but they do mean that A Spoonful of Sherman remains a perfectly pleasant evening out, rather than being the supercalifragilisticexpialidocius experience it might have been.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

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is at Live at Zedel, Crazy Coqs until 20th August



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