ANYONE who has been to a television recording session will know that the slick and seamless stuff we watch on the box in the sitting room represents only a tiny fraction of the time spent filming (unless it was Mrs Brown’s Boys, that is!)
That is the main problem for drama companies embarking on performances of TV scripts, written in short scenes. We saw it with Blackadder at Motcombe, and it’s even more evident in the current production of four episodes of Dad’s Army at Shaftesbury Arts Centre.
Director Sue Cadmore and her large production team have done a magnificent job collecting authentic period costumes and props and the cast has thrown itself into the spirit of the original, turning in wonderful performances most of which accurately reflect the actors who brought the stories of Walmington on Sea Home Guard to our screens in 80 episodes from 1968 to 1977.
With a choir singing the songs of the period in the gaps between episodes, the atmosphere was brilliantly captured, but Oh it is slow!
With a 7.30 start, the third episode ended (before the choral interlude) at 10pm on one of the hottest nights of the year, and the audience, as well as the unfortunate men in full uniform, were wilting.
Tony Smith is a perfect Mainwaring, with Richard Lloyd at his best in the role of the debonair Sgt Wilson, and Philip Elsworth terrific as the perennial “stupid boy”.
Jerome Swan turned in a couple of nice turns as the scheming U-Boat captain and the unworldly vicar, and Jenny Tempier loved every moment as Mrs Fox, the local temptress.
Steve Hawkes avoided the temptation to “do a Clive Dunn” and so created a Lance Corporal Jones with a new and delightful identity.
Congratulations for some fine performances, good singing and authentic settings – but audiences should be warned that putting television scripts onto the stage does not turn them into plays, and both the stage management and all the acting must be seamlessly crisp.
Dad’s Army is on until Saturday 27th July, and is well worth a visit.