DRONFIELD: Players’ 70th anniversary show Dad’s Army is bang on target

Daniel Roberts , Rachael Hope, Paul Black, Margaret Harrison in Dad's Army, presented by Dronfield Players
Daniel Roberts , Rachael Hope, Paul Black, Margaret Harrison in Dad's Army, presented by Dronfield Players

Seventy years of entertaining the public of north Derbyshire is good reason to make a song and dance.

Dronfield Players promised that they would stage omething special on for the milestone anniversary - and they don’t disappoint.

This week’s presentation of Dad’s Army is the players at their best.

Community spirit is married to wartime spirit right from the p get-go. The aptly attired Barlow Singers, led by musical director Karen Cook, rev the audience up prior to curtain up with golden oldies such as Tipperary/Pack Up Your Troubles and There’ll Always Be An England.

Bunting and period posters decorate Dronfield Civic Hall where sell-out audiences enjoy nearly three hours in the company of the motley crew which poses as the Walmington Home Guard.

Players earn their stripes with a comical Morris dance scene and an airing of the Floral Dance song, which are both performed in fine style.

The show is a tribute to the late Bill Black, who died last year, and whose sons Brendan Black and Paul Black are director and leading man respectively. Both do their dad’s memory proud.

Paul Black tackles the marathon role of Captain Mainwaring with military precision and is barely off stage for a minute. He captures the essence of the pompous bank manager turned Home Guard chief to a tee, fixing his victims with icy stares, blowing out his cheeks in impatience and even flushing with embarrassment when caught doing something he shouldn’t. Paul maintain his composure right until the final curtain, barking out the order: “Forward, bow!” to the company. His performance deserves a medal to go with the cheers he got from the audience at Wednesday’s performance.

David Manning brings an apt laidback and gentle charm to the role of the captain’s sidekick, Sgt Wilson, and has the audience howling with laughter when he turns up on stage with a horse costume around his middle.

In his role of the out-of-step Lance Cpl Jones, there’s plenty of laughs provided by Daniel Roberts not least with his “fixed bayonets” cry when he imagines he’s under threat of attack.

John Castell is outstanding in the role of Private Frazer - the towering volunteer soldier with the mad eyes and Scottish accent. Of all the performers, he is the one who looks most like the screen character.

Octogenarian Bernie Charlesworth brings limitless charm and great characterisation to lovable Private Godfrey who prefers a nap to keeping watch on the enemy.

As the youngest of the main performers, Adam Diskin plays a blinder as “stupid boy” Pike in a role which proves he has a bright future on the stage.

And the master of black market trading, Private Walker, is tackled with customary style by Richard Thompson.

The ladies are well represented by Kath Connolly and Gill Richards as Mainwaring’s lady friends, Mrs Gray and flirty Mrs Fox, and Rachael Hope as Private Pike’s nagging mum.

There’s some fine performances among the supporting actors, namely Paul Holland as Chief Warden Hodges, Gary Jarvis as the U Boat Captain and Chris Nicholas as Colonel and town clerk.

Unfolding in short sketches, the play includes well-loved scenarios from the TV series such as the capture of enemy sailors and women auditioning to be Lady Godiva with the bonus of The Floral Dance which was aired at The Royal Variety Performance but never on the small screen.

Dad’s Army is running until Saturday, April 20, 2013.