The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
June 6, 7, 8 & 9, 2007.
The Happiest Days of Your Life
by John Dighton
Adrian Kenward – Dick Tassell [Assistant Master at Hilary Hall]
Ralph Dawes – Rainbow [School Porter and Groundsman]
Peter Winstone – Rupert Billings [Senior Assistant Master at Hilary Hall]
David Goodger – Godfrey Pond [Headmaster of Hilary Hall]
Judith Berrill – Miss Evelyn Whitchurch [Principal of St. Swithins]
Diane Robinson – Miss Gossage [Senior Assistant Mistress at St. Swithins]
Hugo Harwood – Hopcroft Mi [Pupil at Hilary Hall]
Addie Marten – Barbara Cahoun [Pupil at St. Swithins]
Hazel Starns – Joyce Harper [Assistant Mistress at St. Swithins]
Tony Brownings – The Reverend Edward Peck
Susanna Chaplin – Mrs. Peck [his wife]
John Garland – Edgar Sowter
Barbara Thomas – Mrs. Sowter [his wife]
Stage Manager – Richard Bulling
Stage Manager – David Comber
Assistant Stage Manager – Olive Smith
Technical Stage Manager – Helen Brewster
Lighting Design & Technicians – Mike Medway
Sound Design & Technician – Jonathon Weldon
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Maggi Pierce
Set & Technical Team – David Comber
Set & Technical Team – Richard Bulling
Set & Technical Team – Dave Collis
Set & Technical Team – Sue Chaplin
Set & Technical Team – Mark Flower
Set & Technical Team – Philip Oliver
Set & Technical Team – Sheila Neesham
Press & Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Press & Publicity – Lucien Bouchy
Press & Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Poster & Programme Design – Judith Berrill
Front of House Co-ordinator – Betty Dawes
Box Office – Margaret Murrell
Programme Note #1: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
RH wrote: “So there I was in the autumn of 2003 reading a review of a revival of Happiest Days at the Manchester Royal Exchange. How odd, I thought, can’t still be funny after 55 years. But the reviewer seemed to think otherwise, and so I organised a company play reading in the Spring of 2004, at which I disgraced myself by giggling helplessly when supposed to be reading.
So was born the idea that I would like to say thank you to the Wick for 50 years of wonderful fun and friendship by directing our revival of this play, which marked my debut on the Barn stage in 1957. I’m also delighted that a member of the 1957 cast, Ralph Dawes, is also appearing in our current production and another, Betty Dawes, is our Front of House manager. I am also looking forward to meeting many other ‘old Wickers’, some of whom were also involved in our original production. At the other end of the age spectrum, we are delighted to welcome 2 members of the Young Wick, Addie Marten, playing Barbara Cahoun [not spelt Colqhoun] and Hugo Harwood as Hopcroft Mi [in training for 2057?]
Personally I’ve been on this wonderful nostalgia trip for the past few months. This is what we used to laugh at in the 1940s and 50s. To my delight the current cast see to have found the play both enjoyable and funny, and we all hope so much that you do too!”
Programme Note #2: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
To aid the enjoyment of the evening the programme offered a “Glossary for the under 40’s”
Evacuation – during wartime individual children and whole schools were moved to parts of the country considered to be safer.
Wire and Telegram – fast means of sending a message through the post office.
Don Bradman – legendary Australian batsman.
Five Bob- five shillings equivalent to 25 pence.
Half-a-Crown – a substantial coin equivalent to 12.5 pence.
Telephone exchange – telephone calls were not dialled directly but through a switchboard operator.
LMS – London, Midland and Scottish Railway.
Tapioca – a stodgy milk pudding.
Whale Steak – meat was in short supply but whale steak was available although rather unpalatable – also known as Moby Dick.
Ration Book – coupons for foods and clothes in short supply – children had their own ration book including the sweet ration.
Publicity #1: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: May 24 2007 issue – pages 40 & 41
Text Header: ‘Golden’ boys and girls come out to play
A TALE of two schools and a mix-up at the Ministry make for fun and frolics in Wick Theatre Company’ summer production, The Happiest Days of Your Life.
This play by John Dighton sees pupils and staff of Hilary Hall school for boys and St Swithin’s school for girls billeted in the same building, with chaotic consequences. After wartime evacuation to various uncomfortable places, headmaster Godfrey Pond and his staff, Rupert Billings and Dick Tassell, are happy to be back at Hilary Hall – but not for long.
Bombed out of their own building, the girls of St Swithin’s are sent to join them, owing to mistake by the Ministry of Evacuation. Godfrey Pond is played by David Goodger, and Rupert Billings and Dick tassel by Peter Winstone and Adrian Kenward.
Evelyn Whitchurch [Judith Berrill], formidable principal of St Swithin’s, quickly takes control and the masters have to share their common room with her staff.
Miss Gossage, the hearty, back-slapping games mistress, takes a shine to Rupert, much to his horror, while Dick is immediately enamoured by pretty Joyce Harper. Diane Robinson is Miss Gossage while Hazel Starns plays Joyce Harper.
Chaos ensues, made even worse by pranks played by pupils like Hopcroft Mi and Barbara Cahoun [Hugo Harwood and Addie Marten, both members of the Youth Wick Group]. As if that weren’t enough, two sets of parents, alerted by some rather strange letters home, arrive to check up on their offspring. Mr and Mrs Sowter [John Garland and Barabar Thomas] want their son Cyril to be toughened up in an all-masculine environment, while the Reverend and Mrs Peck [Tony Brownings and Sue Chaplin] fear for the health of their delicate daughter, Julia.
The lugubrious Rainbow, who acts as porter and groundsman, is kept on his toes trying to fool the unwelcome visitors. He will be played by Ralph Dawes. The play, first staged by the company 50 years ago, will be directed by Ray Hopper, who was cast as the mischievous schoolboy Hopcroft Mi back in 1957, with Ralph Dawes appearing as Dick Tassell.
This production will be part of the Adur Festival and runs from Wednesday, June 6, to Saturday June 9, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre. Tickets cost £7.50 for Wednesday and Thursday, and £8 for Friday and Saturday, from the box office on 01273 597094.
Publicity #2: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: June 8 2007 issue – page 17
Correspondent: Louise Acford
Text Header: 50 years on, play gets second run
THE BOARDS might not be the only things creaking when a theatre company stages a comedy 50 years after initially performing the play. Ray Hopper, 67, of Burgess Hill, was a teenager when he took the rôle of Hopcroft in The Happiest Days of Your Life with the Young Wyke [sic] Players, as they were known in 1957. The company is now called the Wick Theatre Company and the group will once again perform the play, by John Dighton, under the directorship of Mr Hopper. It includes original cast member Ralph Dawes, who played Jack Tassell in 1957 and will return as the character Rainbow the groundsman.
Mr Dawes and his wife, Betty, founded the company in 1948. Mrs. Dawes played Miss Gossage in the original and, like her husband, takes an active role in the group as both president and front of house manager. The group now has 130 members.
Mr Hopper said: “I have been a member for 50 years and I just wanted to find a way to say thank you for the fun, friendship and artistic endeavours of the group in those years.” He has managed to gather five of the original 13 cast members for the reunion. Sadly, some of the actors have passed away since 1957. But five of the original cast members will be attending a gala performance at the end of the run and a private celebratory dinner the next day. They include Barbara Riedl née Calhoun who has travelled from Austria for the production.
Mr Hopper is still looking for two actors from the 1957 production. He said: “We are looking for Seamus McGurk. He played Billings. We also want to find Sally Bonnington who played Mrs Peck.” Anyone who knows where either might be can contact Mr Hopper on 01444 258356.
Wick Theatre Company’s production, which will be part of the Adur Festival, runs until tomorrow, at the Barn Theatre in Southwick Street, Southwick. It starts at 7.45pm and tickets cost £7.50 or £8 from the box office on 01273 597094.
Publicity #3: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
Publication: WEST SUSSEX GAZETTE
Publication Data: May 16 2007 issue – Hewitt’s History Files
Correspondent: Phil Hewitt
Text Header: Happy days and catchphrases that have lasted half a century
IT was a different, much smaller world, half a century ago, when Ray Hopper made his debut with the Wick Theatre Company. The play was The Happiest Days Of You Life – a piece which Ray is reviving in June to mark his 50 years with the company.
This time, Ray will be directing the play. But back in 1957, as a 17-year-old, Ray was among the ranks, playing a mischievous pupil in John Dighton’s rib-tickling tale of two schools, one for girls and one for boys, allocated the same building by mistake.
Back then, there were probably plenty of people around who remembered the seeing the play’s first outing in the West End in 1948. Just a couple of years after that, the piece became a celebrated film starring the immortal trio Alastair Sim, Margaret Rutherford and Joyce Grenfell.
Seven years after that, Ray, who now lives in Burgess Hill, was starting rehearsals for his Wick debut. He was 16 when he joined the company, 17 by the time of the performances.
“We moved from the far side of Brighton,” he recalls. “My parents bought their first house in Southwick and mother insisted that I join the hockey club, the cricket club and the youth club.”
Wick’s youth theatre group had started in the late 1940s: “I missed the beginning, but we have got people in the company still that were founder members. Ralph Dawes was one of the masters in the show 50 years ago. Now I have cast him as a caretaker.” Ray admits his memories of the production are somewhat hazy: “But the play has got lots of little catch-phrases that Ralph and I have been throwing at each other for 50 years! I have been a member ever since. I became very involved in my late teenage years and early 20s. If there was any part going, I wanted it – until the family came along a little later and it took more of a back seat. I have also done the Christmas shows. And for the last seven or eight years I have got a bit more involved again.”
The company, perhaps not surprisingly, is totally different now to the company he joined all those years ago: “In 1957 people were not mobile. You joined a company where you lived and the audience came from where you lived. It was a Southwick company and everybody lived in Southwick and the audience lived in Southwick. Over the years, all that has gradually changed. We have now a very big company, and the members come from all over south-mid Sussex. We do somewhat more ambitious productions now. We were very successful with The Madness Of King George lll about six years ago. We have won lots of awards. We have always been a very keen competition drama group. While I was young, I specialised in competition drama. We were very successful.”
• Ray’s revival of The Happiest Days Of Your Life, part of the Adur Festival, runs from Wednesday, June 6 to Saturday, June 9, at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick. Tickets cost £7.50 for Wednesday and Thursday, and £8 for Friday and Saturday, from the box office on 01273 597094. Time is 7.45pm.
Review #1: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: June 14 2007 issue – page 12
Reviewer: Sam Woodman
Text Header: Thank you for the ‘Days’
A MIX-UP at the Ministry, stand-offs in the staff room and problematic parents were all part of the fun and frolics in Wick Theatre Company’s latest production. The Happiest Days of Your Life, by John Dighton, was performed to packed audiences at Southwick’s Barn last week, as part of this year’s Adur festival.
After a wartime evacuation, headmaster Godfrey Pond and his staff are delighted to be back at Hilary Hall school for boys – until the arrival of pupils and staff from girls’ school St. Swithins, themselves evacuees after their building is razed to the ground. Arguments over sleeping arrangements, use of the playing field and the furnishings of the staff common room ensue, until the arrival of parents causes more mayhem. Mr. and Mrs. Sowter [John Garland and Barbara Thomas] want their son toughened up in an all-masculine environment, while the Reverend and Mrs. Peck [Tony Brownings and Susanna Chaplin] fear for the upbringing of their delicate daughter, Julia.
David Goodger’s turn as waffling headmaster Mr. Pond went down a storm with audiences, while Judith Berrill was on fine form as the formidable St. Swithin’s headmistress – sorry principal – Evelyn Whitchurch. They were ably supported by Peter Winstone and Adrian Kenward [Hilary Hall teachers Rupert Billings and Dick Tassell] and Diane Robinson and Hazel Starns as back-slapping St. Swithin’s games mistress Miss Gossage and teacher Miss Harper, respectively.
Two members of the Young Wick group, Hugo Harwood and Addie Marten, took to the stage as pupils Hopcroft Mi and Barbara Cahoun, who both coped well playing youngsters from the 1940s.
Wick’s performance of The Happiest Days … was an enjoyable romp, and one steeped in history, with two members of the company’s cast returning to the play 50 years after first starring in the tale. Ralph Dawes [school porter and groundsman Rainbow] appeared as Dick Tassell back in 1957, while director Ray Hopper had played Hopcroft Mi in the same production. The script has perhaps dated a little, but nowhere near as much as one might have suspected of a play more than 50 years old, and no doubt helped by the boundless enthusiasm and efforts of the cast.
In his programme notes, Ray Hopper recounted a tale of how he disgraced himself by giggling helplessly during a reading in 2004 – a fate similarly suffered by all those who left the Barn Theatre with aching sides last week.
Review #2: The Happiest Days Of Your Life
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: GIRLS AND BOYS
CELEBRATING his 50-year association with Wick Theatre Company, Ray Hopper has chosen to direct the play as it was his first play with them. The choice has provided him with a lot of nostalgia and a whiff of it will reach those members of the audience old enough to recall the far off days of 1945, the setting for the play. Memories of ration books, evacuation and of life slowly returning to normal following the end of the war are evoked.
The action takes place at Hilary House School for Boys, which due to an error by a government department is forced to share its premises with St. Swithins School. Unfortunately this turns out to be a school for girls. War breaks out between the two and it is only the necessity of keeping the merger secret from respective parents that leads to a sort of truce.
Despite appearing a little dated at times, there is still charm and much humour in the piece and the whole cast worked hard providing it.
Judith Berrill and Diane Robinson go to the top of the class for acting honours. Each gives delightful performances as the battleaxe headmistress and gawky games mistress respectively. As the dithering headmaster, David Goodger provides a lot of comedy but lacks subtlety. Usually this actor has a fine comic touch but here his performance is over-animated.