A word from the director

 

The LDV… a genuine home guard or a comical Dad’s Army? In 1940 Britain was in crisis. Europe was being overrun by the German

military and even before the fall of France the fear of invasion of these shores was palpable. Things came to a head with the debacle of Dunkirk and just a few days afterwards, on 14th May 1940 Sir Anthony Eden broadcast an appeal asking for volunteers to form a new force, the LDV… the Local Defence Volunteers.

Men aged between 17 and 65 who were not already enlisted or in reserve occupations were invited to join. Quite simply they were expected to delay an

invading force of crack German troops, wherever they landed, until the regular army had time to form a front line. Although eventually issued with WW1
rifles and rudimentary kit, The Home Guard, as Churchill renamed them, were at first expected to fi ght with nothing more than a collection of old shotguns, bayonets welded onto pipes, pitchforks, sharpened sticks and whatever else came to hand!

A quarter of a million men joined within a week of Eden’s appeal and by the time the Guard was formally stood down in December 1944 over 1.5 million had joined their ranks. Offi cially there were never any women in the Home Guard although many worked in unoffi cial ‘administrative’ roles until they were

admitted into their own separate LDV auxiliary in 1942... and you can forget Dad’s Army… it was Lad’s Army! Half the volunteers were twenty-something or

teenagers and they weren’t all ‘stupid boys’ either.

Coastal areas and strategic targets became the focus of their defensive work and by 1942 an acceptable level of effi ciency had been established under a

functional command structure. Although few shots were fi red in anger, it was the Home Guard that reassured the nation through a period of genuine fear.

So how did the comical portrayal of the LDV in Croft and Perry’s TV series become an accepted representation? From 1968 to 1977 across 80 episodes, a movie, stage plays, radio shows and Royal Command Performances millions laughed at the antics of Mainwaring’s geriatric fusiliers and subsequent generations still enjoy the repeats on our screens today. The sitcom humour ranged from subtle to slapstick and was sometimes dark. It was more than just popular. UK viewing figures of over 18 million turned Dad’s Army into a national treasure.

The show has been criticised in some quarters for its inaccuracies! But the authors were not looking for accurate detailed portrayal and whilst the plots

focused on the infi rmity of the men, the weakness of the leadership and the inadequacy of their effort, Perry and Croft insisted it was not intended to

mock. Their aim was to entertain but also to ensure that the sympathetic portrayal of the Walmington-on-Sea heroes outweighed the satire.

HTC’s production of Dad’s Army is intended to be not only a tribute to a landmark TV production but also an affectionate celebration of the contribution of so many ‘gone but not forgotten’ heroes in the real LDV.

After all, the Home Guard was no laughing matter.

 

Barry Bowen: Director

 

Cast List

Miss Edith Parish, the Usherette  – Andrea Thorpe

Captain George Mainwaring – Paul Stephenson

Sergeant Arthur Wilson – Alan Grant

Lance Corporal Jack Jones – Alan Jones

Private Frank Pike – Jake Hannam

Private James Frazer – Tony Saxby

Private Joe Walker – Mitchell Rous

Private Charles Godfrey – Steve Hannam

Chief ARP Warden William Hodges – Dave Wright

Maurice Yeatman, the Verger – Kendal Lavery

Mrs. Mavis Pike – Kirsty Page

Mrs. Marcia Fox – Sarah Wiggins

Melissa Palethorpe, the waitress – Lisa Gould

Claude Gordon, the Town Clerk – Paul Johnson

Miss Ivy Samways – Pamela Self-Pierson

Miss Lily Sedgewick – Ellie Page

Miss Mary Prentice, tea girl -  Jessica Foster

Colonel Raglan Pritchard – Paul Johnson

U-boat Commander – Steve Hannam

The Lady Maltby – Helga Kilroy

Mrs. Fiona Gray – Alyssa Upton

 

Review: Your Harlow. June 2014

 

THIS was alway going to be a tricky one. Dad’s Army is more than a sit-com, it is a natural treasure with characters and the actor’s portraying them, embedded in the public’s hearts and minds.

So, in the early part of the performance, in front of a packed first night audience at the Victoria Hall Theatre, this reviewer was getting that sinking feeling as each actor, good as they were, were just, different from the originals.

The person, who did stand out early on, was Alan Grant’s performance as the louche Sgt Wilson. Alan had the mannerisms down to a tee: “Is that wise?” “Would you kindly fall in?” were delights to behold.

But as the play continued (and it was three episodes and a finale), you started to warm to the characters as each actor really made their part their own.

Paul Stephenson was a fine Capt.Mainwaring and he really grew into the role. Again, not only did he look like the Capt. but really brought all the bumptiousness of the man. Although his finest moment was, perhaps, the third act, where the Capt indulges in a brief flirtation with a Fiona Grey. It is a very sad scene, which exposes Capt Mainwaring as a man living an unfulfilled life. But both Paul and the Alyssa Upton produced a brilliant couple of scenes.

The rest of the troupe produced a number of admirable performances with Jake Hannam’s Pike wonderfully callow and Mitchell Rous had perfected all of Walker’s mannerisms as the cockney spiv, especialy the way he drew on a cigarette.

Two of the harder challenges were Godfrey and Frazer. Steve Hannam produced a wonderfully doddery Godfrey although again, it was the scene that explains his rile in The Great War that is very touching. However, Steve’s finest role is as the U-Boat commander, where he was wonderfully teutonic.

Frazer is a very difficult role but Tony Saxby really brought out the miserly, miserable undertaker. Good to see the word “Sonsie” getting an airing.

There were a number of actors who had lines that just brought a smile to your face. The Town Clerk, Paul Johnson’s stress on the word “Fleshings”; the wonderful little cameo by the tea girl played by Jessica Foster; The Verger’s “Brummie” accent as played by Kendal Lavery; the troupe’s bet noire, Mr Hodges played by Dave Wright and another of the tea room ladies played by Lisa Gould.

The episodes were introduced by a wonderfully crimson and curvaceous Miss Edith Parish played by Andrea Thorpe. In many ways, the ladies were at an advantage as they were not playing “national treasures”. And we hope she won’t take this as an insult but Sarah Wiggins was Mrs Fox as indeed was Kirsty Page as Mrs Pike.

The more we reflect on the performance, the more we liked it. Yes, we did think it was probably twenty minutes too long but the audience seemed to be happy (but not with the man who coughed throughout the performance).

We don’t know if there are tickets left so check with the Box Office.

Thanks. You have been reading………