The Apollo is gaining a reputation for ‘blockbuster’ productions at Christmas – a good alternative to the traditional pantomime for a festive family treat. Last year ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ proved immensely popular and this year ‘Dad’s Army’ became the first Apollo Players’ show in history to sell out every performance before the curtain had even risen on opening night.
For those lucky enough to bag a ticket (there may possibly be a few returns if you’re very lucky) this stage show comprising three full episodes plus a sketch originally performed for a Royal Variety Show fully deserves a packed and appreciative audience.
All the old favourites are there, with a full supporting cast and some actors taking multiple roles across the episodes, making for a large number of actors onstage, every single one of whom was completely immersed in the world of 1940’s Warmington On Sea.
With such a cast it is difficult and maybe unfair to single out specific actors, but special mention must go to Peter Gale who captured the very essence of the pompous Captain Mainwaring, his character the backbone of each episode, yet showing a tender, vulnerable side in his encounter with Mrs Grey, ably portrayed by Ginnie Orrey, and of course his fear of the unseen Mrs Mainwaring.
Paul Gwinnett was a suitably suave Wilson, and David Stradling was superb as the bumbling Corporal Jones – his reaction to having what he thought was a loaded grenade put down his trousers was hilarious – and again he showed another side to his character as he feared his relationship with Glenys Lloyd Williams’ delightfully flirtatious Mrs Fox, was under threat.
The rest of the platoon were just as we remember them from the TV show – the cantankerous Scottish Fraser (Danny Carmichael) vying with spiv Walker (Nick Turvey) and vague, elderly Godfrey (Colin Ford) provided great foils for each other and for Robbie Gwinnett’s Pike, who provided one of the funniest moments from the TV show as he taunted a German U-boat captain and was threatened with his name going ‘on the list’. Paul Stevens effortlessly played both the German and in other episodes the vicar, while other cast members also doubled roles to present familiar storylines.
Staging was imaginative, with a set comprising the village hall and office, which swiftly and with minimum movement became a café, a railway station and a street as required. Pauses between episodes on the opening night were perhaps a tad prolonged, but this did not detract from the audience’s enjoyment. Lighting and effects supported the action, and costumes and wigs betokened the period perfectly.
Fans of the TV programme will be more than familiar with the stories portrayed on stage, while anyone -is there anyone? – who has never seen the show will be prompted to find episodes on YouTube having sampled the very very funny delights of the Apollo’s version of ‘Dad’s Army’.
To find out if there are returned tickets for any performances please contact the Apollo Box Office on 01983 210010.
[Photos: Paul Jennings]