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
Dad’s Army Radio Hour
Live at Zedel until 21st January