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Boundary Players - The Happiest Days of your Life

29th April to 3rd May 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Off at a frenetic pace

Boundary Players: The Happiest Days of your Life, at the William Penney Theatre, Aldermaston, from Tuesday, April 29 to Saturday, May 3

Wartime schooldays may seem an unlikely setting for a farce, but in The Happiest Days of your Life John Dighton proves that even the sacrifices and deprivations of war can have their funny side.

Hilary Hall School for Boys is a conservative establishment to say the least and does not accept change easily The staff are resigned to playing host to another school, evacuated from their bombed-out premises. But when, thanks to a ministry blunder, the visitors turn out to be from the formidable St Swithun's School for Girls, it's hardly surprising that things don't go too smoothly.

Re-creating the atmosphere of the 1940s is no mean feat for any company. Neither is following in the footsteps of stars like Margaret Rutherford and Alastair Sim, who made this play and the follow-on film famous.

But Boundary Players, under the firm direction of Colin Webb, really rose to the occasion, with costumes, a set, and even flower arrangements that captured the austerity and character of the period and a cast who rarely let the comic pace drop below a level of frenetic hilarity.

Colin Benham and Alice Grundy were brilliantly matched as the warring headteachers, Godfrey Pond and Miss Whitchurch; while Sue Barham provided an ideal foil for the latter as Miss Gossage, with a fabulous range of 'jolly hockeysticks'-style mannerisms. Clive Lewington, who has played such a variety of roles for Boundary Players, warmed to the role of the stuffy bachelor Billings, and displayed a strong rapport with Will Collins, as his red-blooded colleague Tassell. Viv Harris was well cast as Joyce Harper, the object of Tassell's affections, while John Maycock made a delightful Rainbow, the long-suffering but all-knowing caretaker.

The play gives ample opportunity for cameo roles, as the parents of some of the pupils join the mayhem. Richard Mier and Davina Harris, as the mild-mannered reverend and Mrs Peck contrasted very effectively with the aggressive and comical Mr and Mrs Sowter (Colin Webb and Claire Warwick). Ola Aladegbola and Julie Henry also gave strong performances as the school's token pupils, the mischievous Hopcroft Mi and the romantically inclined Barbara.

Happiest days of their lives? I very much doubt it. But Boundary Players gave us a very happy couple of hours.