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Dad’s Army Radio Show

Wilton’s Music Hall

Dads Army Radio Show

Dad’s Army Radio Show

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 22nd January 2019



” an homage to the original writers and a celebration of a particular brand of humour that has sadly all but passed away”


From the moment we hear the voice of the former music hall star, Bud Flanagan, crooning the famous theme tune for “Dad’s Army” through the speakers, we are wrapped in a blanket of fond nostalgia which keeps us warm for the ensuing ninety minutes. We think we are in for an unsurprising, almost gentle, recap of the BBC television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War; yet we are immediately caught off guard by the impressive skill of impersonation. David Benson and Jack Lane, between them, take on all the characters with near perfection.

Set in a fictional seaside town on the south coast of England, the stories revolve around a mixed bag of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, either by being in professions exempt from conscription or because of age (hence the name ‘Dad’s Army’). “Dad’s Army Radio Show” relives three classic episodes; ‘Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel’, ‘Mum’s Army’ and ‘The Deadly Attachment’, eschewing visual props and set, recreating the atmosphere of a radio broadcast that ultimately relies purely on the script and the voice. A tall order, maybe, but this two-man army conquer the task with masterful ease.

The pair seamlessly bounce between the characters as fast as the humour switches from subtle to slapstick, enjoying every minute and relishing the crackle of catchphrases that have become part of popular culture. They don’t look the part but as soon as Lane utters the clipped vowels of Captain Mainwaring you can close your eyes and picture Arthur Lowe on a grainy black and white television screen. Only, don’t close your eyes! Otherwise you will miss the meticulous mannerisms. Benson’s Sergeant Wilson comes complete with the shy half-smile and self-conscious forehead-patting we loved John Le Mesurier for. Blink and he has morphed into the dour, Scottish Private Frazer or black-market spiv Private Walker; while Lane ricochets between the old but hilariously fastidious Lance Corporal Jones and the young, mother’s boy Private Pike.

Aided by Tom Lishman’s evocatively period sound design, this is not merely an exercise in mimicry. It is an homage to the original writers and a celebration of a particular brand of humour that has sadly all but passed away. It is not laugh-out loud, nor sensational, yet it still bites beneath its soft pelt. It pokes fun at our very Englishness, but the real target is outside aggression, to which it stands up, and fights.

The original television series was expected to have had limited appeal, and all involved were surprised at the popularity of the show, later reflected in the frequency of the repeats over five decades. Similarly, “Dad’s Army Radio Show” reaches beyond the limits of an audience wanting merely to relive the moment. The winning charm of Benson and Lane, that equals that of the mellow yet bitingly ironic original material, not only ensures that this show will stand the test of time and invite repeat viewing, but will persuade us, familiar with it or not, to revisit the original.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Richard Davenport


Dad’s Army Radio Show

Wilton’s Music Hall until 26th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Songs For Nobodies | ★★★★ | March 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018


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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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