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New Era Players

The New Era web site is at www.neweraplayers.org. Twitter @NewEraPlayers or Facebook.

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Where

New Era Theatre, Wash Common, Newbury RG14 6NU.

Box office

07919 916009 or email .

Review of The Happiest Days of Your Life

27th to 30th November and 3rd to 7th December 2019

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Old school 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

About New Era

This small, friendly and very successful theatre group was established in Newbury in 1978, and we are lucky enough to have our own small theatre in Wash Common. (click here for a map). We produce several plays each year covering a wide variety of theatrical styles.

New Players Acting Membership

Share the experience of performing on stage; join the challenge of set-building or the creativity of costume design; enjoy the teamwork in whatever direction your talents take you. You could be an active participant in our future productions, or join us for play readings, workshops, theatre outings and a variety of social events. Whether you are experienced or just have bags of enthusiasm, you can be assured of a warm welcome.

If you are interested in becoming an acting member please email our membership coordinator at the address .

Audience Membership

To book tickets for any of our productions, please contact our Box Office on 07919 916009 for more information.

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