The hugely funny Forty Years On offers a light- hearted contrast to the sombre King Lear which Hampstead Players are putting on in November. Forty Years On also requires much less from the actors; no-one has to learn any lines and there are a mere seven rehearsals.
Costumes and props are minimal.
This comedy was Alan Bennett's first West End play and an immediate success - but it is not for the straight-laced. Set in a boys' public school in 1969, it mocks the Christianity on offer there and is full of erotic overtones. Boys are romantically drawn to other boys, masters to boys (the "wandering hands" episode in Act II is hilarious) and one of the masters even tries his luck with the coquettish Matron. As for the bawdy songs - well, they are one reason we are putting the show on in the Crypt Room rather than the church!
There are five main characters:
The Headmaster, a traditionalist who is retiring. (He needs to come across as 50+)
Bill Franklin, an abrasive modernist who will succeed him (20s to 40s.)
Charles Tempest, another master (20-40 but could be 50). He has a short temper and a roving eye.
Matron (20s-40s but could be 50). Theoretically in charge of the boys well-being but not averse to flirtation.
Miss Nisbitt (20-50) the Bursar's secretary. She is in a permanent state of terminal confusion.
And quite a few other minor roles.
During the play the main characters transform themselves into people from early twentieth-century history; some, like Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, are real historical figures. Others are entertaining stereotypes of eg grand ladies, adventurers or writers.. In addition there is a radio announcer, a reader who conveys historical information and a chorus of unruly "boys" many of whom will be men or cross-dressed women. The total cast, even with some doubling up, will be at least 15. The play promises to be great fun to perform in and watch!