Cranleigh School can boast at least two living professional playwrights among its former pupils: Al Smith and Patrick Marber. But for the first time in living memory, on the nights of the 18th – 20th October, in the School’s Vivian Cox Theatre, a play by a current VIth Form pupil was produced as the second half of an East House double bill: ‘The Rum Doodlers’ by Adam van Schaik. The play was directed by the playwright, with the assistance of Head of Drama, James Copp. The play is very loosely inspired by ‘The Ascent of Rum Doodle’, a short 1956 novel by W. E. Bowman, which is a parody of the non-fictional chronicles of mountaineering expeditions: “to climb Mont Blanc by the Grépon route is one thing; to climb Rum Doodle is, as Totter once said, quite another.” It also inspired a mountaineering society at RGS, Guildford.
Adam’s characters are more in the style of Pythonesque or Reeves and Mortimeresque humour, for example, Burley becoming Paine Bloodaxe played with hilarious comic menace by Will Yeeles. Adam himself led the expeditionists as Bernard and helped ensure that his comic dialogue had the pace required to keep the audience in stitches. The schizoid loony Dr Bedlamite, played by Kit Rowcliffe and his two hats was a notable tour-de-force in a strong cast.
The other play in the double-bill was ‘Trammel’ (2009) by Michael Lesslie, a hard-hitting play about the public school system and its doctrines and values, though written from a point of view about such schools that owed as much to ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ as the reality of the 21st century. This play was directed by Cranleigh School’s Theatre Artist in Residence, Lizzie Bourne, whose experienced theatrical vision was especially evident in scenes such as the CCF night exercise. A large and talented cast was led by Charlie Adorian as the boy who tries to drop his ‘innit’ to win it, only to eventually return home expelled, where he oversees the kicking to near-death of a former fellow boarder. Will Jenkins was hugely impressive as Head of House; Adam Barker a boiling inferno as his successor; and Ben Durston terrifying as the new breed of public school bully: a rich Russian.
On the last night Richard Humes, caretaker Housemaster of East, warmly thanked Mark Jenkins and the superb technical crew, as well as James Copp and Lizzie Bourne.
Reviews of each play will be posted after Long Leave.