The Happiest Days of Your Life, Diss

Chestnuts do not come much older than this, a play alive with the ghosts of Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell.

By BASIL ABBOTT

Chestnuts do not come much older than this, The Happiest Days of Your Life, a play alive with the ghosts of Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell.

Schoolmasters wore gowns and mortar boards, school-mistresses were battleaxes and male security was threatened by encroaching females. So only the clothes have changed.

Duncan Livingstone's direction of the Mere Players at Diss Corn Hall is slickly fluid, with an eye for the stage groupings of post-war farce, those carefully orchestrated pile-ups of bodies. He also has his cast working with the intense team effort required for this kind of play.

Farce is not renowned for depth of character but this stage is full of people who are more than types or attitudes, while being very funny.

Steve Askew, previously seen as crafty proles, goes up-market to play a bounderish schoolmaster. Alan Huckle's headmaster is an amusing mixture of Mr Chips and Mr Pastry. Lisa Adamson's Miss Gossage is a cross between Joyce Grenfell and the Vicar of Dibley.

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Even the children are well acted, with Hamish Living-stone and Laura Purling confidently portraying pupils from another era.

It is a strong cast: Oliver Briscoe as the assistant master, Graham Sessions as the dry old porter, Christine Hamilton as the dragonish headmistress, Melissa Corbet as a fresh young mistress; and Roy Preston, Mary Allen, Clive Sinfield and Sue Sadlwskyj as visitors caught up in the farcical melee.

Next year we can look forward to Mere Players in Oliver and The Crucible.

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