by David Croft & Jimmy Perry
Bacup Royal Court Theatre Group
Director: Stephen Woods
Originally entitled, “The Fighting Tigers”, Dad’s Army soon became a hit on television. There were 80 episodes in total and the show was voted fourth best sitcom. There has been a film and a stage revue called, “Nostalgic Music and Laughter of Britain’s Finest Hour” in which the Croft and Perry scrips were used. The show has been reworked to result in a very entertaining drama which has adapted four of the television episodes.
The home guard platoon of Walmington-on–Sea used the church hall as its headquarters with its office being their Captain’s command centre. This was reproduced by set designer, Paul Ashworth, who recreated the familiar setting with attention to detail. The lighting had to zone areas to accommodate the unfolding storylines. This was successfully achieved to ensure there was no loss of atmosphere. The sound gave an equal balance making sure all those well-known lines came across. The costume had to be right as the audience would know how their beloved characters should look. Everyone on stage was recognisable. I only wish Mainwaring had had his morning suit, it would have completed the characterisation.
The director and cast had the daunting job of bringing the Dads Army cast alive enough for the audience to accept them. The direction carefully brought about the madcap exploits of the inept warriors. The U-Boat captain and crew sketch received a warm round of applause when the iconic line was spoken, “… don’t tell him your name, Pike …”. All the catchphrases are included; “Stupid boy”, “We’re Doooomed” and “Don’t Panic” and they all created moments of hilarity.
The ladies were not forgotten in the second sketch, “Mum’s Army” introducing Lauren Moran in two cameo roles, Ivy Samways and the waitress. This is an actress with merit. We met Jonesy’s lady-friend, Mrs Fox. Rebecca Ashworth was the foxy lady who had fun making up to Mainwaring together with Anne Fielder adding sauciness when playing the voluptuous, Edith Parish. This led into the “Godiva Affair”, the brief encounter spoof with Janice Purslow giving a fully rounded characterisation and capturing the moment.
There was an obvious special bond on stage which enabled the script to have impact. Dad’s Army invaded the stage with all members of the platoon, from the gloomy Scottish undertaker to the racketeering by Private Walker. There was another internal war that existed which was between Mainwaring and Warden Hodges. In his debut role, Colin Cropper made his mark as Hodges with his battle cry, “Put those lights out”. One only has to hear, “May I be excused, sir?” and Private Godfrey comes to life. Steve Newton found the sincerity of Arnold Ridley’s original character. The oldest member is Corporal Jones who is always interrupting and volunteering. Jim Rowe injected such excitable energy into the role, and he soon became a favourite with the audience. The youngest member of the platoon is Frank Pike, based on Jimmy Perry. Josiah Thorp gave quite a performance as the naïve private. Josiah became as one with the character. Pike’s Uncle Arthur, Sergeant Wilson, was played by Ian Eastwood. His diffident style of delivery was, “Awful…ly nice”.
In charge of this bumbling contingent of local defence volunteers was Captain Mainwaring. His pomposity and rivalry with upper middle-class Wilson is the core of the character. Darren Brierly gave an inspired Mainwaring - every inch the testy bank manager.
All the fun and frolics came to an end with the entire company in a very funny choral piece ,“The Floral Dance”, with Mainwaring conducting – but them , who else?
As the curtain fell there was flag waving and cheering from the capacity audience. If any of them were not fans of Dad’s Army before this production, they were by the time they left the theatre.