Forty Years On“A public school boy should be acceptable at a dance and invaluable at a shipwreck,” declares the retiring Headmaster of English public school 'Albion House.' With plums firmly in mouth and tongues definitely in cheek, Roger Gimblett's evocative production of Forty Years On, will slingshot to mind, memories of tuck shop milk bottle confectionery, stoggy custard school dinners and assembly hymns sung out of tune. All eyes are on the end of term play, a light-hearted revue of recent history that symbolises the lost of tradition and the advent of reform and modernity. Barked stage directions of  “maximum of fuss with minimum of performance” to school boys called Wigglesworth, Wimpenny and Tupper – soon remind audiences to smile wryly in this bittersweet parody.

From the same author as the theatrical smash hit and film The History Boys, British playwright Alan Bennett is a household name. He started his career in Edinburgh Festival's Beyond the Fringe with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook and his television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic. Forty Years On was his first stage play and the role of the schoolmaster has been played by Sir John Gielgud. Described as a satirical comedy reflecting on nostalgia, lost of innocence and the misunderstanding of one generation by another - it is a play within a play about the changes that happened to England following the end of the Great War in 1918.

The year is 1968 and Headmaster (Frank Bradley) is looking back on his tenure ship. It is his time to step down and revolutionary House master Mr Franklin (Dave Kirham) is eager to take up the reigns. “When a society has to revert to the lavatory for its memory, the writing is on the wall,” describes the Headmaster's reaction to the raciness of the school play, of which both pupils and house master mutually enjoy many Oscar Wilde aphorisms and hamming of literary and historical figures. Of particular note is Andrew Mead's House master, Mr Tempest, who delights us with accents from spiff to jock and Joyce Birch' Miss Nisbett's flibbity gibbet of a Nursey. Not forgetting the twenty strong teenage cast of Albion boys whose instinctive clowning-about infectiously amuses. 

Roger Gimblett's production creates a sense of on-stage family and invites the audience, if not parent, as we are referred to in the play, to flick through the photo album of history and the Albion school days. No demerit points here, only gold stars to all those who can remember the Jerusalem hymn lyrics after, “And did those feet in ancient time, Walk upon England’s mountains green?” 

By Alan Bennett

Zenith Theatre | cnr Railway & McIntosh Streets, Chatswood
Wednesday 27, Thursday 28, Friday 29, Saturday 30 June @ 8pm; Matinees: Sunday 24 June at 5pm, Saturday 30 June at 2pm and Sunday 1 July at 5pm.
Adults $28. Concession $24. Group Discounts available. Booking fee may apply
2 hours 30 mins
MCA 1300 306 776 or

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