It has been a while since last I dipped into the vaults and pulled out a bit of nostalgia from Matchbox past. And so, with the start of a new year, it seems wholly appropriate to do so now and, with my own return to the cloisters of education, what more apposite piece than our twenty fifth anniversary celebration John Dighton’s ‘The Happiest Days of Your Life’. A revival of the Matchbox Theatre’s first ever production back in 1981 (and if there are any anecdotes or photos from that show I would love to post them here), it was a joyously fast paced and farcical piece set post war where, as a result of space shortage, Hilary Hall boys’ school finds itself forced, with virtually no notice, to house the staff and pupils of St Swithin’s – a girls’ school. Cue petty arguments and naughty tricks between the sexes, romantic attachments and good old fashioned comic farce, especially when one set of boys’ parents and one set of girls’ parents turn up, and every attempt is made to keep them in the dark. Very much a piece in the Ealing vein it was well received and proved capital entertainment for such a special occasion.
Although a staple of many amateur dramatics groups farces are a rarity in the Matchbox canon but when done it is invariably done very well indeed. This was a fitting anniversary tribute, marvellously staged, well cast, energetic and comedic. Involving both young and old members of the group it is good to see some maybe long forgotten faces here as well as some warm reminders of dear friends. As is often the case such pieces also act as a fly in amber reminding me of youth, oh for a Dickie Attenborough to do a bit of DNA manipulation.
Still, the memories are reward in themselves and I have delicious reminders of Gill channeling Margaret Rutherford as Miss Whitchurch, K’s wonderfully ebullient and tenacious Miss Gossage entrapping my Rupert Billings in the days when I could still play a carefree young bachelor about town, a wonderfully serpentine red and yellow scarf (glimpsed above), some great character turns from a host of the Matchbox great and good and a damned jolly good time being had by all. A true triumph under Pat Williams’ direction, it serves as a wholly apporopriate piece with which to begin this year’s remembrances and to signal a wholly successful year on stage ahead. Here’s to it.
And more of that anon.