Somehow or other I’ve managed never to have watched Dad’s Army on television, either when first broadcast or during subsequent repeats. There must be other potential audience members for the new touring production Dad’s Army Marches On in the same situation. Others, of course, are word-perfect fans already. Expectations for the actors’ performances therefore range from straight impersonation to fresh characterisation.
Four scripts by Jimmy Perry and David Croft make up the play. Two of these are favourites of the writers – Branded (for Perry) and Mum’s Army (for Croft). The other two are Young and Beautiful and The 2 and a Half Feathers. They work well in this theatrical context, aided by Nancy Surman’s design which gives us a vaguely shoreline set (a seagull watches proceedings with the beadiest of eyes from down stage right) with minimal furniture and dropped-in pieces to indicate different locations.
James Robert Carson is the director; he also staged this show’s predecessor Dad’s Army Marches On. His excellent cast includes Leslie Grantham as the archetypical spiv Private Walker, David Warwick as the languid Sergeant Wilson and Timothy Kightley as bank manager Captain Mainwaring. Maitland Chandler stands out from the rest of the platoon as the gentle Private Godfrey, whose past is rather more heroic than his comrades at first allow.
As the irascible Scot Private Frazer, Kern Falconer makes the most of his frequent taking of umbrage. The ARP warden, at natural daggers-drawn with his Home Guard colleagues, is Martin Carroll and the women with assorted pasts, not to mention their presents and futures, are led by Sarah Berger. Richard Tate enjoys himself as the old First World War soldier Lance-Corporal Jones; both he and Thomas Richardson as the young and rather dim Private Pike have played their roles before.
The action flows naturally from one story to the next; the joins are scarcely visible. And after all, there’s something particularly satisfying about a production which acknowledges its gratitude for Arabic curses as well as for drill instruction and movement coaching.