North House brought a light cheer to the cold evenings before Long Leave (7th-9th February) with ‘The Happiest Days of your Life’. This was a team effort on a large scale with no less than three directors (Tom Taylor, Will Setterfield and Luke Boyd) and so many extras (the dancing IVth Formers and the hilarious rustic groundsmen) that the programme only listed the thirteen named characters. Those groundsmen were led by Toby Savill as Rainbow, who gave a wonderful comic performance in a double-act with his broom.
The play is by John Dighton and, when written in 1948, reflected the relief of post-war Britain with its light approach to evacuation leading to two schools sharing premises with a Headmaster (the suavely fussy Will Heath) and a Headmistress (the formidable Millie Black). Dighton was also a screenwriter and adapted the play for a famous film version starring Alistair Sim as Pond, Margaret Rutherford as Miss Whitchurch and Joyce Grenfell as Miss Gossage. There is thus an irony that, although the subject matter seems ideal for a House play, there are only two parts for pupils, excellently played by Tessa Lenselink and the ‘Beano’-clutching Ben Strickland. However, the young actors certainly found a way to do comic versions of adults, not the least being young Abi Frett who almost stole the show as the batty (call me sausage) Miss Gossage.
The romantic element was charmingly supplied by the envelope-licking Jonny Paddle, the handsome beau to the belle of Sophie Kinally. Jonny’s double act with the pipe-smoking Fin Chesterman was especially enjoyable. Of course the twinning with West allowed cross-dressing to be mainly avoided but I was delighted that Hugh Ferrey and Alex Robertson were allowed to camp it up in wigs and make-up as this really underlined the ludicrous misunderstandings (nanny goats and all) of the parents, the Pecks and Sowters. Harry Yates and Will Day brought tremendous bluster to their parts as the husbands.
As always Mark Jenkins and his crew were so professional that we tend to just watch the play and hardly notice their expertise in lighting it. In the programme Housemaster Ed Burnett added thanks to Lizzie Bourne and I am sure that in-House all the backstage helpers were given credit for making such a team effort to entertain three packed VCT audiences.
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