Don't panic! Jonesy and co are coming back home

Amazingly it is 40 years since they first hit our TV screens - now the nation's favourite Home Guard platoon is planning a theatrical homecoming to the region where much of the series was filmed.

Amazingly it is 40 years since they first hit our TV screens - now the nation's favourite Home Guard platoon is planning a theatrical homecoming to the region where much of the series was filmed.

As its latest coup in a growing list of big-name recruits, Lowestoft's Marina Theatre will host an adaptation of the classic sitcom featuring Walmington-On-Sea's fearless fighting force - better known to millions as Dad's Army.

It is another coup for the Marina as it continues to punch its cultural weight by bringing heavyweight entertainment to the town, already boasting an extended residency from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the appearance of the world-renowned Russian Ice Stars this month for Lowestoft's first skating show in 50 years.

Now theatre bosses hope the April arrival of Captain Mainwaring and his bumbling troops will have punters marching in line to the ticket office.

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Former Eastender Leslie Grantham has been enlisted for the role of racketeering cockney Private Walker for the new production, which recreates some of the vintage programmes which are so familiar to comedy fans.

But the highlight of the show is the inclusion of two “lost episodes” - not televised since 1969 after the originals were accidentally erased by BBC engineers.

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The first, A Stripe for Frazer, reveals the competition between Frazer and Jones when Mainwaring offers a promotion for one of his soldiers, while The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker catalogues Private Walker's desperate attempts to avoid the draft.

Producers of the show said it would give fans a unique opportunity to see these “rare gems” of British comedy.

Theatre manager Martin Halliday said: “It is going to be the only opportunity people will get to see these episodes, as they only exist in script form at the moment.

“There is a huge amount of affection for Dad's Army and with the area used for so many locations in the original series the show is effectively coming home.

“Virtually all the scenes were filmed in Norfolk and Suffolk, and so to have the only East Anglian dates for this show is fantastic.

“I am delighted to have been offered this opportunity to secure this major national tour for the region.”

The show will also feature adaptations of four original episodes after writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft agreed to release the scripts, which were last produced in the 1970s.

They include the award-winning Deadly Attachment in which Capt Mainwaring and his loyal platoon capture a German U-boat crew.

Locations for the original series included Yarmouth's Britannia Pier and Weybourne rail station, while Thetford's streetscape and nearby military training areas are recognisable as the backdrop for many of the 78 televised episodes and a full-length feature film.

The Guildhall in Thetford is home to a permanent exhibition featuring memorabilia and photographs of the cast and crew as they filmed in the town between 1968 and 1977.

Show creator Mr Croft, who lives in nearby Honington, officially opened the museum earlier this month and gave his blessing to plans for a life-size statue in honour of the pompous but patriotic Capt Mainwaring, played by the late Arthur Lowe.

Thetford Society chairman Stuart Wright, who runs Dad's Army trails in the town, said: “We're surprised at the amount of interest we get across all generations. It is not just the older folks who saw it the first time around.

“People have such a warmth towards the programme and some haven't been able to watch every episode.

“This show is a great opportunity for younger fans to see these lost episodes, and there will be a great demand for it.”

t Dad's Army runs from April 22 to 26. Tickets are available from the Marina Theatre box office on 01502 533200.

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