It had to happen. David Croft and Jimmy Perry’s homage to the ageing (and youthful) volunteers otherwise known as Dad’s Army, is the perfect material for those of us for whom the war’s outcome and an affectionate distance has given those terrible years a cosy glow.
But the reality was far harsher. Too old to join up, the men of this south coast seaside town, alarmingly close to occupied Europe, Walmington-on-Sea’s Home Guard, the butcher, the grocer, the supperannuated pensioners and the pompous Bank Manager, would have died in the streets to save this island, and the Players’ affectionate tribute to them in this production does them proud.
We ran a book in our house on who could be cast as the iconic Captain Mainwaring and I won – this is a lifetime part for Stephen Brunton who one could be forgiven for thinking had been born to play the role, if only we hadn’t seen his many other triumphs.
But this star player holds it all together with all Mainwaring’s comic exasperation and class consciousness exquisitely counterbalancing the poignancy of this iconic little man being caught in, but stepping up fearlessly to the challenges of the worst catastrophe the civilised world has ever known, and doing it stoically and with nothing else but sheer bloody courage. I salute Mr Brunton for this seemingly effortless performance of a lifetime.
I suspect the poignant Brief Encounter railway station sequence will linger in the mind long after this production has finished, but the nosy fun of the tea-shop assignation, the disastrous drill exercises and the encounter with real life German foes keeps the interest burning throughout, as this poignant slice of history – for many still within living memory – is played for all its worth.
Special mention must go to Chris Stanley for a heroic Corporal Jones, Will Young for a perfect Pikey, Denise Baker as a bashful Mrs Fox and Rosemary Bodger as perpetually anxious Mrs Pike, while Sarah Stanley is sheer perfection as the delicately-sketched slightly louche widow of Mainwaring’s infatuation.
The interval is in the wrong place – the first half is too long, but the Floral Dance finale makes up for everything. Go, if you can still get a seat.
Dad’s Army runs in the Garrick Main House until Saturday (February 4). For tickets phone the box office on 01543 412121 or visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com.