Dad's Army

Date 10th October 2015
Society The DODS
Venue Lister Hall, Dursley
Type of Production Play
Director Jalea Ward

Report

Author: Nick Lawrence - Councillor

It was most courageous to take on these famous roles and to deliver the lines so well-known by the audience. In fact there were some lines floating about the auditorium before the performance started. The Saturday night audience contained a number of fans of these much loved stories. A wise choice of episodes had been made and the overall balance of the evening was good.  The audience was put at ease by the pleasant Front of House staff and everyone sat down eager for a good evening’s entertainment.

The major problem with taking these episodes to the stage is the rapid changes required between scenes. These moments often require costume changes too. It was sensible to choose not to be rushed by this and to calmly take time to render the changes. It probably wasn’t all that calm backstage but to the audience everything was under control. Were musical interludes considered? Waiting in the dark always seems so much longer when waiting in silence. There are so many handy recordings of the forties stars singing easily recognisable songs, that it would have been reasonably easy to provide cover, but then that might have been difficult to administer and seem over fussy. Then there is the waiting in the dark. These days audiences are quite used to seeing changes being effected and a little misty light would have allowed the audience to observe the furniture changes – occupying the mind.   It is so difficult to pick up the pace again after such pauses. I daresay that all this had been considered and what we got was the best solution for you.

The set made the best use of the wonderful space available. Although getting around the desk was somewhat difficult at times, no one made a fuss about this and in fact it became something amusing in itself.  Particularly impressive was that one could see through the window to the street outside and see people approaching. This added an extra sense of realism. The café and its situation worked well and was well worked by the actors in the restricted space. The arrival of the platoon through the auditorium worked particularly well introducing everyone most successfully.

The characters and situations are well-known and so no ridiculous efforts were made to try to look like the original actors. The scripts ask the actors to study the mannerisms of the various characters and this had clearly been undertaken. All of the favourite characters were faithfully represented, and a certain amount of individual interpretation was employed. This worked well, keeping the audience’s interest and not resorting to impersonation. The majority of the actors spoke clearly delivering the story and the gags. It would be so easy to rely on the audience’s knowledge and drift into self indulgence.  At no point did this become the case, and so all the audience could enjoy the scripts.

The very nature of these scripts embedded in the nineteen-forties presents a challenge to the twenty-first century actor. The attitudes of the time, particularly towards women,  add an extra pressure on the female actors to get into character. But most of Croft & Perry’s women are feisty characters and this was brought to the fore. The maximum amount of comedy was brought out of the situations, particularly in the “Godiva Affair” and pointed to Mainwaring’s pompous self-importance..  

The pastiche of the famous scene between Celia Johnson & Trevor Howard was spoiled by the long pause while the train piece came on. Perhaps this sequence, so well known in theatrical circles, could have purely used the smoke. There could be very few members of the audience who did not recognise the reference to the famous film – it is referred to so often in other comedies and adverts. The clouds of smoke created by the train as at the end of “The Railway Children” do not need the train. If the actors create the parting scene between Mainwaring and Mrs. Gray with sufficient poignancy the actual train becomes irrelevant. Having said all that, the actual train piece was appropriately evocative.

The club should be congratulated on amassing so many actors to populate this huge cast with so little doubling up and have people left to operate the technical aspects. Characters were well formed and maintained throughout.  Diction was generally good, posture fairly period, and costumes worn naturally. It is so vital to get into the period of such works, especially the nineteen-forties which so many people think they know well.

Jalea and her team had worked hard to deal with all the problems that these scripts raise and the presentation was subsequently smooth and easy on the eye.  The much-loved gags were generally well told and the enjoyment of the participants was clear to an equally entertained audience. This was a huge commitment by cast & crew which came together most successfully.