IT’s quite a challenge, playing to an audience who know your character – and even your words – as well as you do. But the Salisbury Studio Theatre company rises to the challenge and pretty much brings the house down with Dad’s Army, which runs to 16th May at the Ashley Road theatre.
In the annals of television comedy, there are few shows to compare for longevity and popularity with Dad’s Army, Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s affectionate tribute to the Home Guard. You can still see re-runs on some of today’s many television channels, but it has acquired a new life as a stage show, allowing loyal fans to sing along with the period songs and anticipate every joke and situation.
Even those of us who don’t know the characters and stories so well, but are old enough to have seen it first time around, have fond memories of the self-important Captain Mainwaring, the laconic Sgt Wilson, the irritatingly eager Corp Jones, poor young Pte “Stupid boy” Pike, spivvy Pte Walker, always on the look-out for a shady deal and a smart blonde, grouchy Pte Fraser, sweet-natured old Pte Godfrey and the irascible air raid warden.
The Salisbury production is made up of four stories, two well-known – the German U-boat crew to be held secure overnight in the church hall and the plans for the Warmington-on-Sea parade – and two less so. They give the large cast of men and women plenty to do, including morris dancing and choral singing.
Look out for the rather unexpected result of Capt Mainwaring’s efforts to drill the new female recruits, laugh at the terribly un-PC dialogue in the Lady Godiva scene and be impressed by the voices in the rehearsals for the new joint platoon-church choral group.
It’s a delight for Dad’s Army fans and great to see so many Studio Theatre actors, of all ages, enjoying their varied roles. The outstanding performances include Michael Bowyer’s pompous Capt Mainwaring, Alistair Faulkner’s deliciously laid-back Sgt Wilson, multi-talented Kris Hamilton (recently seen as Charlie’s Aunt) as Walker, Fraser Adams as mummy’s boy Pike, David Taylor as gentle Pte Godfrey, Brian Waddingham as the belligerent air raid warden, Simon Haseley as the German submarine captain and the oily town clerk, Sarah Kirkpatrick as the delightful Mrs Gray in a Brief Encounter-style scene and Sue Tranter as the buxom and flirtatious Mrs Fox.
Congratulations to Studio Theatre chairman Colin Hayman, who not only played Cpl Jones, but also designed and built the excellent wartime church hall set.
This is a welcome chance in these politically dark and stormy days to remember a time before comedy had its wings clipped by political correctness and you could have a laugh and not wonder who you were about to offend.
Pictured: The platoon and some of the townspeople in the Church Hall; Captain Mainwaring, Sgt Wilson and the air raid warden. Photographs by Trinity Photography