A Magically Nostalgic Evening with Dad’s Army

Back in the 70s it was not uncommon for a successful TV show to be adapted for the radio, and Dad’s Army was no exception. David Benson’s and Jack Lane’s audacious idea was to replicate the spirit of those shows, as they would have been seen by the audience while being recorded. To do so, however, they have had to divide up the many characters in the show between them, meaning that each performed at least half a dozen major roles. Fortunately, they are both brilliant mimics, and managed to capture the essence of the shows to eerie perfection.

Benson’s Sergeant Wilson was so uncannily accurate is was unnerving, while the versatility required of David Lane to play both Private Pike and Captain Mainwaring was nothing short of astonishing. For the most part, they stuck to the letter of the script, though they were obviously having so much fun they couldn’t resist the occasional nod to the absurdity of it all. This was gentle comedy, without the set pieces and pratfalls that made the TV show such knockabout fun, but somehow this stripped down performance allowed the scripts room to breathe, revealing narratives that were surprisingly poignant and moving.

Over the course of three episodes we saw the real appeal of the show – the warmth and underlying humanity of the original cast. Close your eyes, as I occasionally did, and the stage, the actors and the Corn Hall melted away, replaced in the mind’s eye by John Le Mesurier, Ian Lavender, Arthur Lowe and the rest of the home guard, huddled on stage, reading from scripts in BBC’s Paris Theatre. It was all rather magical.