+3 Review: Dad’s Army Radio Hour (Pleasance Dome: 4-28 Aug: 2.40: 60 mins)

“Like a couple of thoroughbreds taking the jumps with ease”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

This joyful show teased smiles from even the flintiest faces in the Queendome audience. The theatrical concept of ‘watching a live radio recording’ is not one I will ever be a fan of, but here the simplicity of the staging is entirely justified. With words this good, and performances this sharp, little more is needed.

The public appetite for Dad’s Army is seemingly limitless. Like Only Fools and Horses, it is one of those rare TV programmes that people are willing to watch infinite times. This does not mean that a stage version of Dad’s Army is a guaranteed hit: in fact the stakes are raised to get it right and do justice to something held so dear in so many souls (consider the fate of the recent film version). But from the moment David Benson and Jack Lane speak, we know we’re in hugely talented hands. They cover the entire cast of dearly-loved characters effortlessly, like a couple of thoroughbreds taking the jumps with ease. More than ease: there is a grace and good-spiritedness about both performances which makes them a genuine pleasure to watch, and which reminds one of why we fell in love with the originals. There are many treasurable moments, but particularly striking is Benson’s bullseye John Le Mesurier, whilst Lane’s effortless switching from a repressed, frustrated Captain Mainwaring to a good-time floozy, with barely pause for breath, is a delight.

Four scripts are performed, two at each performance. When the production tours, it would be great to see this cast perform the episode Mum’s Army somewhere in the mix. It’s the one where Mainwaring falls in love with another woman, and comes within a razor’s width of leaving his eternally-unseen harridan of a wife. It was one of Dad’s Army‘s rare excursions into genuinely moving pathos, and in amongst all the laughs it would be the icing on an already sumptuous (upside down) cake.

outstanding

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Reviewer: Mark Farrelly (Seen 5 August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Review: Meeting At 33 (Pleasance Courtyard: 7-18 Aug: times vary: 45 mins)

“A hugely hopeful experience”

Editorial Rating:  5 Stars

Theatre-making terms like “verbatim” and “immersive” are all too frequently euphemisms for “lazy” and “misjudged”. Not in this case. Second Circle have created a beautiful piece of work that handsomely rewards forty-five minutes of your time. The concept is deceptively simple. In a Salvation Army meeting hall nestled opposite the Pleasance Courtyard, we take a seat in a circle of chairs arranged for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. There is no special lighting, sound effects or set. We are simply there, experiencing in the raw the self-confrontation that is the AA hallmark. It is thrillingly unclear who is an audience member and who is an actor, and this creative tension gives the experience much of its zing and engagement. Throughout the meeting, different actors (giving superbly naturalistic performances) share their experiences of alcohol addiction. This allows the production to explore some powerfully emotive themes, from humanity’s self-destructive impulse, to the distinction between religious faith and ‘mere’ spirituality, and even the way that recovering addicts, despite having something so deep-rooted in common, are sometimes painfully at odds with each other. If all this sounds highly intellectual, it’s not. The issues are conveyed through feeling, not thought, and our attention is held throughout.

In a piece so resolutely about the need to overcome ego, it would be inappropriate to single out particular performances among the cast of eight. Irrelevant too, since they are uniformly fine. It is however worth saying that Hannah Samuels, who created, directed and performs in the show, announces herself here as a theatre-maker to watch. Also worth saying that, if the concept of the show sounds too ‘heavy’ for some, it’s actually a hugely hopeful experience. And this is for the simple reason that the show offers true hope: that which has been earned by a courageous, coruscating and necessary trip to the interior. All that’s left standing is truth.

StarStarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Mark Farrelly (Seen 7th August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED