Dad's Army brings back such fond memories for its fans, that you would be forgiven for thinking that this stage adaptation has disaster written all over it. But, “Don’t Panic!” because, due to the warm direction of James Robert Carson and the willingness of the cast to throw themselves into the war effort, it ends up being a lovely treat.
This nostalgic, witty delight is subtitled "The Lost Episodes." Writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft mounted a global search for six lost 30 minute treasures. They found four and here they are recreated for theatre-goers to enjoy all over again.
What makes this so much more than a theatrical re-tread is the perfect cast. Colin Starkey is starchy, as the infamous Captain Mainwaring and although he could never match the genius of the late Arthur Lowe, he does a great job trying. His side-kick Sergeant Wilson is also delightfully played by David Warwick. For me though, some of the smaller roles have the greatest impact: Jason Haigh's Private Walker - the Cockney Spiv and Thomas Richardson's Pike light up every scene with their underplaying. The show stealer though is the excellent Richard Tate as old boy, Jones, originally played by Clive Dunn.
I have compared these actors with their original counterparts, but to be honest, 30 minutes in, you will not be doing this, as this cast are standouts once you cease with the "Is that whatsisname?" comments. At times the pace is slightly off as this is live, rather than pre-recorded and edited. But it is such a joy to see these beloved characters back again, that you are willing to allow the odd lapse.
The sparse set could be better as, at times, members of the cast have to stop suspended windows and scenery from wobbling. But, in a way it adds to the ‘dusted from the archives’ feel of the piece, never really distracting you as much as you would imagine. Perry and Croft’s writing still stands out to this day as the comedy is quite subtle but like their hit comedy Hi De Hi many of the laughs are followed by poignant moments.
The audience on the night I went were only too willing to travel back to a time when British situation comedies were envied the world over; laughing like drains, throughout. Me? I could watch it again!
- Glenn Meads