Classic comedy will be revived when David Benson and Horsham’s Jack Lane combine for a performance of The Dad’s Army Radio Show for this year’s Petworth Festival. The show will be on Thursday, July 18 in the Leconfield Hall at 5pm (ends approximately 6pm; no interval).
Based on the classic BBC sitcom by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, and the radio adaptations by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles, the night will see two actors play 25 characters as they stand at their mics and deliver three classic radio episodes.
The performance taps into the series’ enduring popularity which shows no signs of abating more than 50 years after it first started airing and more than 40 years after its last-ever episode.
“It is still being shown on terrestrial TV, on BBC2 and it still gets great audiences,” David says. “And I think there are so many reasons for that. It is such a family show. It is something that the whole family can watch together. We used to watch it when we were children and then people watched it with their own children, and we get lots of young people coming to see it. It’s a bit like Doctor Who in that respect. There is an emotional attachment to it because in our memories it takes us back to a time when we felt safe and connected with our families.
“But there is also something mysterious about the show that it is very hard to pinpoint, something that makes it so popular still. It is not just the superb script, the great writing, the fantastic cast that they assembled, characters that are still so deeply familiar now.
“But also it is because it was set in the Second World War when this country was facing an external threat. What happens is that you get this wonderful comedy, but you also get a sense of impending possible ruin. The enemy might arrive. They are on the frontline. They are right on the coast, so it is a combination of not just comedy but also real jeopardy and threat.
“But also it works on so many different levels. It is a wonderful recreation of 1940s life, a reminder of things like rationing, the fact that everyone had to pull together even if they didn’t particularly like each other. And that’s the wonderful thing about Dad’s Army. They don’t even all like each other. Fraser hates everybody. Mainwaring tolerates Godfrey, but only just. Everyone is irritated by Pike, and there is Mainwaring, this jumped-up little Napoleon thoroughly enjoying assuming the mantle of defender of not just Walmington-on-Sea, but the entire nation…”
It’s also a show that resonates personally with David: “When I was a schoolboy, I used to impersonate John Le Mesurier (who plays Sgt Wilson) for my own amusement. I liked that quality that he had of detachment from all the mayhem around him. He always seemed to be in his own little world, which I was, and I really liked that. I just used to turn into him. It was a just a private thing… it was my own little private therapy or escape just to pretend that I was Sgt Wilson. But I think as you get older you start to see more in Captain Mainwaring, his qualities and also in the great quality of the performance from Arthur Lowe, his great depth and subtlety…
“I think different people will always respond to the different characters in different ways, and that is just all part of the attraction, why we keep coming back to the series.”
Tickets on http:// www.petworthfestival.org.uk.