Friday, November 20, 2009

" Little Theatre Pulls It Off!"

In 1873, writer-to-be Angela Brazil started her education at Miss Knowles Select Ladies School in Preston, Lancs.
Angela was 4 years old. And that morning, while sitting on the knee of Miss Knowles The Younger, cheeky Angela leaned upwards and pulled out all the teacher's hairpins...
Miss Knowles The Younger was NOT amused. And Angela was promptly removed , both from teacher's lap AND Select Ladies School. She'd lasted exactly half a day.

I heard that tale years ago from a colleague...when I was teaching in London and the Head of our school was insistent we rid library shelves of both Enid Blyton and Angela Brazil.

I grew up with Blyton's Malory Towers. Malory T held 2 massive attractions: the fun of boarding school PLUS a Cornish setting ( Cornwall being scene of my family holidays AND thus my favourite place In The Entire World)
And I also loved Angela Brazil: what was better than snuggling in bed under a flowery pink "eiderdown"(!) with a Lakeland terrier fast asleep beside me....while I gorged a bag of peardrops...and also gorged the adventures of the intrepid " Monitress Merle"???
And frankly, whatever my London Head thought about Brazil ( I'm on the fence re Ms Blyton) I think Brazil accelerated girl's fiction ( and even possibly girls images) up some showing female strengths/weaknesses, bonds, friendships etc ....and just as Harry Potter "encouraged" boy's reading more recently, so did Angela B for girls of my generation...

SO on Wednesday, I visited the Little Theatre (Chester Theatre Club, see for Denise Deegan's " Daisy Pulls It Off", directed by Margaret Bennett.

AND it's a pastiche of all those other schoolstories....but it's gentle, generous and above all, it's fun. There's lots of "scrummies" " toppings" and " japes", there are gym slips, feasts in the Dorm...and there are Latin quotes and Hymns we can suddenly remember, with which we hum along (!)...AND there's a synchronised hockey match and an equally clever cliff top resue.

And as ever, there's superb characterisation: Mary Pemble ( stepping in last min as Headmistress and doing "an absolutely sterling job").... also the poisonous Doubleact: Zoe Lambrakis/Ali Cooper ( as Monica Smithers/Sybil Burlington...COULD those names be bettered?!) And of course, there's Sophie Lund...see snap above (as the wonderfully loyal Trixie Martin) and Fiona Wheatcroft, perfectly cast as Daisy, the Scholarship Girl who makes her mark and solves a Mystery...ALL Hugely enjoyable.

PS: Denise Deegan is a fairly local writer! She studied Stage Management at East 15 Acting School but now lives in Wales, is a member of NE Wales Mt Search/Rescue Team and is a Welsh Border Morris Dancer...


Blogger Kate said...

Oh, Sophie Lund! Terrific to hear she's doing well and enjoying herself. One of my best pupils, you know...

2:57 pm  
Blogger Catherine said...

My childhood reading was restricted mostly to library books, for financial reasons - and our local library would not stock Enid Blyton. I suspect the same policy would also apply to Angela Brazil, since if it had been there, I would have read it for sure, and I haven't :)
I have to admit, while I'm sure they are fun, they don't really bear much relevance to the lives of New Zealand children of that period - or to half the population of Great Britain, though I did overhear a conversation in a Bakewell supermarket which led me to suspect that that kind of school does still exist for the British upper classes.

4:22 am  
Blogger Jan said...

I think she's in the next play too.
Lovely to hear from you, Kate.

Sounds as though you did some interesting earwigging!
Thanks for commenting Catherine.

4:20 pm  
Blogger herhimnbryn said...

Spiffing! Anyone for hockey, followed by tea and scones?

10:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(sound of distant explosion as a mother bursts with pride)

10:22 pm  
Blogger elizabethm said...

Oh yes, I loved both Blyton and Brazil, although my own life was nothing like either, and while I moved on to all sorts of other and perhaps better things, both of them were part of the magic of reading. I do admit that I always wondered why nothing ever happened in the North of England when I was about eight or nine!

11:23 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

My primary school wasn't precious about Enid Blyton, I think our teacher even read one (the Island of Adventure I think) to us once, which we loved as a class. I read a few, but actually got quite quickly bored with them, they didn't have enough matter somehow. I wasn't a snobbish or precocious reader particularly, much later I went through an obsessive Biggles phase! I just found there wasn't much to grab or be grabbed by, a lot of pony books I found similarly boring and I was quite keen on ponies for a bit. Enid's slightly simpering tone did annoy me too, I think.

Angela Brazil had completely slipped off the radar when I was a kid, I don't remember seeing them anywhere much, though there were other school stories. Obviously they were simply hopelessly dated, but I rather wondered, reading about her later, if it wasn't partly the intensity of the friendships between the girls that made some of her detractors uncomfotable. Didn't she even have a character called Lesbia?!

I don't think relevance to children's own lives matters much at all, not for all kids anyway. The wave of social realism in children's lit that came later left me cold. Most of us, young or old, like being taken somewhere else, but in a way that's convincing.

6:11 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Yes, please. I'm always ready for cakes!

You're allowed to burst with pride!

Wonder if you liked Swallows and Amazons??

I think there's a place for both Fantasy and for Realism in children's books...
Child Readers inhabit so many different worlds...both in their heads AND in their daily lives..
LOvely hearing from you Lucy and glad you liked the snap!!!

4:42 pm  

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