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Kintbury Players - The Happiest Days of Your Life

23rd to 27th November 2011.

This review was from the Newbury Weekly News.

Fast-paced farce rattles along

Kintbury Players: The Happiest Days of Your Life, at the Coronation Hall, Kintbury on Thursday, November 24

First performed at the Apollo, London, in 1948, and made into a memorable film in 1950, The Happiest Days of Your Life is a first-class farce by John Dighton, which featured three outstanding performances in the movie that no company - amateur or professional - are ever likely to match.

It is to the credit of the leading actors in this production that they never tried to emulate the glowing personalities of Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell and if one or two of the other characters, like Michael Robinson and Clive Illingdon as the two assistant masters went over the top consistently, well, this was farce and it is allowed.

The action takes place at a boys' school in the late 1940s, when a ministerial mix-up finds the masters and pupils facing the arrival of a girls' school to share their accommodation. The resulting mayhem makes for a good slapstick comedy and there were strong performances from Gerry Heaton as the headmaster, Meg Green as Evelyn Whitchurch MA (Oxon) and formidable with it, although she did let the battleaxe characterisation drop off a little by act 3.

Debbie Spencer gave a fine comic performance as Miss Gossage (call me Sausage) and there was a nicely-paced comic turn as Rainbow the porter by Pete Watson. Ronkey Bullard made quite a bit out of the character of Miss Harper and there wasn't much to work on from the author. The two pupils, Nick Batten and Ann Singal, both worked hard although they were rather old for their parts.

Towards the end, the arrival of parents Richard Elgar and Tina Norton and later Kate Edwards and Julian Dickins added to the mayhem. All four gave good accounts of themselves, with Dickins stealing the honours as a rough diamond-type parent, quarrelsome and irritable.

Farce needs to be slick and fast paced and this production moved along fairly rapidly.

Staging, by the directors, on a good set, could have been better - there were too many occasions when we saw five, six, seven and once eight actors all in a straight line across the front of the stage. They needed to move around more, use the chairs and fill out the living areas better.

However, laughter filled the hall and there is no doubt that both performers and audience enjoyed every minute of this bright, lively production.