As you enter through a long, white mess tent, conspicuously pitched on the second level of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, you hear the old-fashioned tunes of frenzied big band being piped through a crackly radio, your first clue that the next hour is about to be a merry trip down memory lane. The signpost above the flapped entrance furthers the illusion, suggesting that you’re entering the town of Walmington-on-Sea. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s either because you’re too young to remember the beloved BBC sitcom Dad’s Army, or are very familiar with English topography. Whatever the case, you’ll find yourself smiling as the cosy staging, complete with Union Jack pennants and soft garden lights strung up from the rafters, transports you to the fictitious seaside town on the south coast of England. What follows is an hour of nostalgia and feel-good comfort food – and not just in the towers of tea sandwiches and scones set along the canteen tables.
David Benson and Jack Lane make up a charming two-man show of many in their makeshift radio studio performance, each movingwith effortless precision between the entire roster of the British Home Guard platoon familiar to so many. If you close your eyes, you can picture yourself decades ago, huddled around the family radio with a cup of tea, taking in the stories of a bygone era. And you don’t need to be acquainted with the show to enjoy this production, either. The impersonations of pompous Captain George Mainwaring and snivelling Private Frank Pike are timelessly droll, and the jokes still land a punch. Accents tour through a long litany of regional dialects native to the British Isles, from Scottish to Received Pronunciation of the Queen, which is impressive to watch in and of itself.
In this particular performance, the hour is split into two episodes, Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel and The Deadly Attachment.Benson and Lane first re-enact the troops efforts to disarm a new secret weapon shaped like a wheel, heading straight towards the town of Warmington, to hilarious effect. They then take on the task of guarding a crew of a sunken U Boat. The second half produces the series’ most cherished one-liner, “Don’t tell him, Pike” from Captain Mainwaring, after the German commander demands to know Pike’s name for his black book of retribution after Germany wins the war. In all, the lo-fi performance may harken back decades, but there’s still much cheer to be had through the antics of Dad’s Army.
Dad’s Army Afternoon Tea Hour
July 31 – August 18
Pleasance at EICC (Venue 150)
Image: Seabright Productions