Dad’s Army Radio Hour comes to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
David: Self-trained, got my real first experience of acting with Edinburgh’s Grassmarket Theatre Project 1990-1996 in a series of improvised dramas that all won Fringe First Awards. Then began to create my own work in 1996 with my first solo show Think No Evil of Us: My Life With Kenneth Williams. I love all sorts of acting and was lucky to spend three years in the National Theatre’s mega-hit One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden.
Jack: David and I are both self-trained. After leaving school I ran away with the circus so to speak. I began working backstage and in film projection before starting my own theatre company and soon started creating the work rather than waiting for the phone to ring. After adapting a successful production of Steptoe & Son for the stage I went on to write, produce and perform Wisdom of a Fool, a one-man play based on the life and career of comic icon, Norman Wisdom. It toured the UK sporadically for three years.
Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
David: Dad’s Army Radio Hour is the radio version of the classic sitcom, with Jack Lane and I doing all the voices – plus sound effects and vintage music to mark the scene changes just as in the television series. It allows us to do lots of things on stage with sound that you could never do in a fully staged version, like chasing an enormous radio-controlled exploding wheel for miles in Jones’s van. We can also play the female characters without having to drag up.
How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
David: I first got the idea for the show in January 2017 when working on another ‘radio show on stage’. It occurred to me that whilst Dad’s Army had been recreated on stage and film in the past no one had thought of recreating the show in the way The Goons, Round The Horne and Hancock’s Half Hour have been done. It’s a great way of re-inventing the show since the audience get to enjoy together with strangers things that they have previously enjoyed at home – the catchphrases, favourite character traits, mannerisms and of course, “Don’t tell him, Pike!” We love how the audience spontaneously sings the title sing when they hear it – it’s a lovely way to start the show.
Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
David: Pace yourself. Save yourself for the final week!
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
David: One night in One Man, Two Guvnors I had to go on for my understudy part at short notice – a terrifying experience. There I was with the entire original cast in the final scene and I triumphantly blasted out a line (”Prove it!”) at completely the wrong moment. They all turned and stared at me, trying not to laugh. I got away with it but I felt dreadful!
Jack: Playing Peter Pan, I was waiting for Tiger Lilly to rush on with devastating news of Wendy, she didn’t. Instead she was chatting to John in the wings about Nando’s. After the realisation, she stumbled on and was barely able to deliver her lines through corpsing! Embarrassing for her but immensely funny for me.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
David: All the brilliant performers I have been lucky to see or hear and you have made me think: I want to be able to do that. Barry Humphries has been a life-long inspiration and I have also been lucky to see Morecambe and Wise, Spike Milligan, Ken Dodd, Lily Savage (before she was famous) as well as singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sinatra and many others who are sadly no longer with us.
Jack: I took my stage name from two of my inspirations after Equity denied my legal name due to a clash. Jack Lemmon and Nathan Lane – Both sublime character actors. Nobody suffers so beautifully as Jack and Nathan’s stage presence, energy and showmanship has got to be the eighth wonder of the world.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
David: I do a few Ethel Merman notes to make sure the pipes are still working. Also focus the mind on the task ahead and imagine it all going very well.
Jack: I locate the theatre’s kettle.
What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
David: I shall seek out all my friends of course – one of the great pleasures of the Edinburgh Fringe – but I hope to see something completely unexpected.
Jack: We hope to catch dear Barry Cryer’s show. He’s supported us from day one and it’s always a joy to be in his company.
Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
David: You will be getting two highly-experienced solo performers pooling our resources to create a performance quite unlike anything else you will see anywhere. The material may be familiar but I like to think Jack and I bring something completely fresh and original, as well as highly skilled, to the Fringe.
Jack: What David said.