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The Happiest Days of Your Life

by John Dighton | Directed by Janet Bennett | Performed November 2019

"It is 1947, and many boarding schools who were evacuated during the war...

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A good old-fashioned comedy

New Era Players relish the chance to cavort about the stage

New Era Players: The Happiest Days of Your Life, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Wednesday, November 27, to Saturday, November 30, and Tuesday, December 3, to Saturday, December 7.

As the Lights went down, the opening bars of the theme tune to the old BBC quiz show Top of the Form – familiar to people over a certain age – set the tone for the evening.

The Happiest Days of Your Life by John Dighton is the kind of comedy that makes you go all warm around the edges and yearn for the nostalgic days of jolly hockey sticks bravado and the New Era production didn’t disappoint.

The story set just after the Second World War, centres around Hilary Hall, a boys boarding school that receives a letter from ‘the ministry’ informing them that they will have to share their premises with another school – the only problem is, due to an administrative mishap, St Swithins is a girls school. Cue comedy.

The cast put on a spirited performance, relishing the chance to cavort about the stage playing exactly the stereotypical characters you would expect. The Hilary Hall crew included the put-upon caretaker Rainbow, a suitably grumpy Keith Philips, the inept headmaster Godfrey Pond (a bumbling Mike Huxtable), the world- weary, cynical Billings (Stephen Bennett chewing his pipe and rolling his eyes to perfection) and the ‘looking for love’ Dick Tassell (Chris Billingham with his puppy dog gait).

Leading the charge for St Swithins, Lisa Harrington played the classic no-nonsense headmistress Miss Evelyn Whitchurch with great gusto and was only ‘out-gustoed’ by the jolly Miss Gossage, Pippa Higgins throwing herself into the role with Amazonian glee. Georgina Gale had the comparatively thankless task of playing Dick Tassell’s love interest, the kindly teacher Joyce Harper, but she held her own.

Perhaps because the play is somewhat dated, it takes a while for the story to get going, but this it did in spades in the second half, when a set of parents from each of the schools turn up unexpectedly and set in motion a slapstick sequence of desperate subterfuge.

The Rev and Mrs Peck (Richard Colley and Karen Ashby), with great comic timing, are completely bamboozled by being shut away in the head’s study, then meeting the male sports teacher Mr Tassell, who mistakes them for Mr and Mrs Sowter, parents of one of the boys. As the Sowters, David Tute shouted and blustered his way around the school and Marian Hatfull revelled her chance to ham it up as his comparatively silent, but expressive wife in hilarious fashion – a star turn from both.

Praise must go, too, to the pupils who have a hand in events. Isabella Goldsmith gamely plays Barbara Cahoun. whose schoolgirl crush on Miss Harper rather interferes in the blooming romance with Mr Tassell, and Jacob Howard (alternating the part with Jack Harman) instils Hilary Hall pupil Hopcroft with a suitably ‘Just William-style’ cheekiness that ultimately saves the day.

Director Janet Bennett has put together a production that does exactly what it says on the tin – a good old-fashioned comedy that provides a welcome escape from the turmoils of the 21st century and judging by the audience reaction The Happiest Days of Your Life is exactly the fillip required.

GERALDINE GARDNER

Cast

Derek Tassell – Chris Billingham

Rainbow – Keith Philips

Rupert Billings – Stephen Bennett

Godfrey Pond – Mike Huxtable

Miss Evelyn Whitchurch – Lisa Harrington

Miss Gossage – Pippa Higgins

Hopcroft – Jack Harmon / Jacob Howard

Barbara Cahoun – Isabella Goldsmith

Joyce Harper – Georgina Gale

The Reverend Edward Peck – Richard Colley

Mrs Peck – Karen Ashby

Edgar Sowter – David Tute

Mrs Sowter – Marian Hatfull

Crew

Director – Janet Bennett

Stage Manager – Gareth Capnor

Lighting / Sound – John Cordery

Prompt – Suzanne Pearson / Vikki Goldsmith

Set – Jane Read

Costumes – Lisa Harrington, Brenda Agutter, Suzanne Pearson

Props – Jane Read

Front of House – Gareth Croft

Publicity – Graham Salter

Box Office – Stephen Bennett

Programme – Editor Webb

It is 1947, and many boarding schools who were evacuated during the war are returning to their premises. Hilary Hall (boys) are back in their old school buildings after five years and are just settling in when they receive the news that they will have to share their premises with a school of similar size and type. Unfortunately, ‘The Ministry’ has got its blue and pink cards mixed up and St Swithins (girls) arrive en masse. Confusion and chaos reign among teachers and pupils alike – and Rainbow the caretaker is none too pleased either!

A good old-fashioned comedy

New Era Players relish the chance to cavort about the stage

New Era Players: The Happiest Days of Your Life, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Wednesday, November 27, to Saturday, November 30, and Tuesday, December 3, to Saturday, December 7.

As the Lights went down, the opening bars of the theme tune to the old BBC quiz show Top of the Form – familiar to people over a certain age – set the tone for the evening.

The Happiest Days of Your Life by John Dighton is the kind of comedy that makes you go all warm around the edges and yearn for the nostalgic days of jolly hockey sticks bravado and the New Era production didn’t disappoint.

The story set just after the Second World War, centres around Hilary Hall, a boys boarding school that receives a letter from ‘the ministry’ informing them that they will have to share their premises with another school – the only problem is, due to an administrative mishap, St Swithins is a girls school. Cue comedy.

The cast put on a spirited performance, relishing the chance to cavort about the stage playing exactly the stereotypical characters you would expect. The Hilary Hall crew included the put-upon caretaker Rainbow, a suitably grumpy Keith Philips, the inept headmaster Godfrey Pond (a bumbling Mike Huxtable), the world- weary, cynical Billings (Stephen Bennett chewing his pipe and rolling his eyes to perfection) and the ‘looking for love’ Dick Tassell (Chris Billingham with his puppy dog gait).

Leading the charge for St Swithins, Lisa Harrington played the classic no-nonsense headmistress Miss Evelyn Whitchurch with great gusto and was only ‘out-gustoed’ by the jolly Miss Gossage, Pippa Higgins throwing herself into the role with Amazonian glee. Georgina Gale had the comparatively thankless task of playing Dick Tassell’s love interest, the kindly teacher Joyce Harper, but she held her own.

Perhaps because the play is somewhat dated, it takes a while for the story to get going, but this it did in spades in the second half, when a set of parents from each of the schools turn up unexpectedly and set in motion a slapstick sequence of desperate subterfuge.

The Rev and Mrs Peck (Richard Colley and Karen Ashby), with great comic timing, are completely bamboozled by being shut away in the head’s study, then meeting the male sports teacher Mr Tassell, who mistakes them for Mr and Mrs Sowter, parents of one of the boys. As the Sowters, David Tute shouted and blustered his way around the school and Marian Hatfull revelled her chance to ham it up as his comparatively silent, but expressive wife in hilarious fashion – a star turn from both.

Praise must go, too, to the pupils who have a hand in events. Isabella Goldsmith gamely plays Barbara Cahoun. whose schoolgirl crush on Miss Harper rather interferes in the blooming romance with Mr Tassell, and Jacob Howard (alternating the part with Jack Harman) instils Hilary Hall pupil Hopcroft with a suitably ‘Just William-style’ cheekiness that ultimately saves the day.

Director Janet Bennett has put together a production that does exactly what it says on the tin – a good old-fashioned comedy that provides a welcome escape from the turmoils of the 21st century and judging by the audience reaction The Happiest Days of Your Life is exactly the fillip required.

GERALDINE GARDNER

Cast

Derek Tassell – Chris Billingham

Rainbow – Keith Philips

Rupert Billings – Stephen Bennett

Godfrey Pond – Mike Huxtable

Miss Evelyn Whitchurch – Lisa Harrington

Miss Gossage – Pippa Higgins

Hopcroft – Jack Harmon / Jacob Howard

Barbara Cahoun – Isabella Goldsmith

Joyce Harper – Georgina Gale

The Reverend Edward Peck – Richard Colley

Mrs Peck – Karen Ashby

Edgar Sowter – David Tute

Mrs Sowter – Marian Hatfull

Crew

Director – Janet Bennett

Stage Manager – Gareth Capnor

Lighting / Sound – John Cordery

Prompt – Suzanne Pearson / Vikki Goldsmith

Set – Jane Read

Costumes – Lisa Harrington, Brenda Agutter, Suzanne Pearson

Props – Jane Read

Front of House – Gareth Croft

Publicity – Graham Salter

Box Office – Stephen Bennett

Programme – Editor Webb

It is 1947, and many boarding schools who were evacuated during the war are returning to their premises. Hilary Hall (boys) are back in their old school buildings after five years and are just settling in when they receive the news that they will have to share their premises with a school of similar size and type. Unfortunately, ‘The Ministry’ has got its blue and pink cards mixed up and St Swithins (girls) arrive en masse. Confusion and chaos reign among teachers and pupils alike – and Rainbow the caretaker is none too pleased either!

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