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Posts Tagged ‘David Benson’

This show has been on my radar for most of its three year life; on one occasion I even got to the venue in Edinburgh to find it had sold out. I’ve very much enjoyed similar treatments of Round the Horne, The Missing Hancocks and Men from the Ministry, but this was even more impressive, with two actors playing some 25 roles.

They’ve taken two radio scripts and recreate the recordings at microphones, in costume, with sound affects. The first, When You’ve Got to Go, concerns young Pike’s call up and the second, My Brother and I, a visit from Captain Mainwaring’s brother. Both are from 1975, late in it’s nine year run, and Jimmy Perry & David Croft’s scripts have stood the test of time, all 45 years of it. Not only are they very funny, but they now have a nostalgic charm (well, for someone my age, anyway) and the smile never left my face.

David Benson and Jack Lane give virtuoso performances with uncanny vocal imitations and as this was their first show for some time, they seemed to be enjoying each others performances as well as the joy of performing again, and by the end were very moved, as were the audience. It was a delightful hour, at least for people of a certain age, perhaps more so given the five month theatrical famine.

The venue for this, part of the New Normal Festival, is the courtyard of Le Gothique in the brilliantly named Royal Victoria Patriotic Building, a gothic gem in Wandsworth, is lovely and the Covid measures were all professionally handled. My second return to live theatre in five days was as much fun as the first.

 

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There’s nothing like a bit of nostalgia to liven up a dull January. Co-incidentally, I’d recently been listening to some of the 147 episodes of this 1962-77 radio comedy on BBC 4 Extra and had been struck by how funny it still was 40-55 years on. It pre-dates Yes Minister, which didn’t appear until three years after it ended, and may well be the first satire on the civil service. It even led to Finnish, Swedish and South African versions (where it was also made into a film)!

The same team that so successfully brought us Round the Horne Revisited have now taken two classic scripts (neither if which I’d heard) of this other radio show from a similar period and recreated the studio recordings, script in hand, sound affects stage right, in the same fashion. The General Assistance Department helps out other ministries when they’re overloaded. In the first episode, Lennox-Brown (Number One) and Lamb (Number Two) end up orbiting the earth in a US spacecraft having been asked to help the Americans but instead stifling them with bureaucracy. It’s delightfully barmy. In the second they are helping the Ministry of Defence when a pile of old junk gets confused for a new weapon, is copied by the Russians and becomes the focus of a disarmament deal. Just as barmy, but also very funny.

Stephen Critchlow and Robin Sebastian are great as One and Two respectively, with Sydney Stevenson an absolute delight as their secretary Mildred. Looming over them all is their boss Sir Gregory Pitkin, a terrific turn from Jon Glover. Harold Wilson makes a couple of appearances, created by the excellent David Benson, who also plays a number of other roles, and brilliantly authentic announcer Charles Armstrong also provides a few cameos. There are some fluffs, asides and ad libs which add to the live recording feel. Brian Cooke has adapted the scripts he wrote with the series creator Edward Taylor and Jonnie Mortimer and Michael Kingsbury directs, as he did the earlier show. 

I suspect this too will be a success and transfer. It’s perfect for those of us of a certain age, but there were lots in the audience who can’t have been around to hear it on the radio first time round, and they appeared to be having as much of a ball as I was.

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