Commemorating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee -
a glorious celebration of the sixty years of the second Elizabethan Age!
Written by Jonathan Rowe
Performed by St Luke's Church Players 23rd - 26th May 2012
"... blending together dance routines, songs and comedy sketches celebrating the music and some of the classic radio and television programmes... over the last six decades. There is music to cater for most people's tastes... and... Laughter aplenty with hilarious sketches..."
[quoted from the programme]
"Long live the Queen!"
The show opens with this momentous announcement, a statement of the continuity that has marked our monarchy's history and our sense of ourselves as a people.
The production is, in a way, itself a potted history of the last sixty years - well, popular culture of the last six decades, at least! Each section has a handy introduction, noting the prevailing atmosphere, crazes, innovations, food and fashions of the decade - and of course, music, because music is and always has been a major contribution to our lives.
National Service and Ealing comedies.
You could buy a three bedroom semi for two thousand pounds.
A Big Mac was what your Dad wore in the rain!...
From gramophones and the wireless.
Cinema screens and dance halls
There was Music, Music, Music!"
Music, Music, Music was the first musical interlude, opening the production on a boisterous and happy note, followed shortly after by Mark Plumley's beautiful rendition of In a Golden Coach, a song depicting the new Queen's journey to Westminster Abbey for her coronation. During this era the grim days of austerity gradually gave way to a brighter, more vibrant and to a large extent American-influenced second half of the decade. And of course, Britain had its first teenagers. Prior to the 50s youngsters went from being children to being little men and ladies, expected to behave with decorum and do what they were told... Post-50s adolescents were allowed to let loose a little, and do what came naturally - hormones and all. That this often caused their parents and elders considerable grief just went with the territory!
After all, we were all young once.
Bobby socks and brothel creepers.
The Fifties saw the first supermarkets.
Where you could buy the latest food craze – fish fingers!..."
Then came a very accurate performance of the Shipping Forecast. At first this was puzzling: a grand British tradition but hardly the most riveting peice of radio ever - until you listen to the actual words...
Shetland, Jersey, Fair Isle, Tank Top. Nan's knitted cardigan. Quite embarrassing.
Blowy, misty, sea sickness. Come home veering suggestively. Hello sailor.
Lundy, Monday, Dover Sole, Halibut and Monkfish. Fish Fingers. Teatime imminent.
Southeast Iceland, North 7 to severe gale 9. Heavy snow showers. Moderate icing on Christmas cake.
Fastnet, Irish Sea, Cromarty, Forth, German Bight. Sausage dog. Quite tasty..."
The laughter started at around 'hello sailor' and continued to the end of the piece. Very cleverly done!
Next was The Nursery School, Gwyn Williams' magnificent Joyce Grenfell impersonation - a sheer delight whether you'd ever heard the original or not!
After the Coronation Street sketch - an excellent recreation of the first episode of this amazingly long-running soap - the very talented Alistair Dawes wowed us with his Elvis Presley impersonation (loved the quiff!) singing It's Now or Never.
The 60s were a time of great change for us all.
And "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"
Prince Andrew was born and Princess Margaret was married.
It was also the year of the famous Lady Chatterley's Lover Trial.
After a thirty year ban and a six day court case, D.H Lawrence's novel was declared to be not obscene, despite chief prosecutor, Mr Mervyn Griffiths Jones who asked the jury - Is this a book you would want your wife, or your servants to read?"
After touching on England's winning of the world cup in 1966 and the phenomenon that was the Beatles - celebrated with a Fab Four song medley - we finished the decade with the hysterically funny Doctor Who sketch, featuring Henry Arnold as Jamie and Barry Glayser as Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor. And Matt Plumley as the fifteenth Doctor. Yes, you read that right, fifteenth. And why not? After all, the number of times the Doctor can regenerate is growing all the time! But the star of this section has to be Jonathan Rowe as a naked Dalek!!
The time that taste forgot.
We tucked into Butterscotch Instant Whip, Smash, and Pot Noodle.
If you were posh you had prawn cocktail and Black Forest gateaux!
We were the first in our street to have quiche!
Get you ! We just had egg and bacon flan!...
We wore flares and tank tops.
Platforms and hot pants.
We were groovy baby!"
Upstairs Downstairs gave us a genteel glimpse of the class divide - or perhaps not so genteel, according to the sketch!
Of course, the 70s also saw our first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Not the most popular person of the time... On a more pleasant note, it also saw the first episode of Antiques Roadshow a series that has helped to make people more aware of the value of the past, of our traditions, than perhaps they were previously. Jubilee's AR skit was a giggle, presenting a grandmother as an antique...
Ra ra skirts, the Rubik cube and Roland Rat.
Riots in Brixton and Toxteth and protests at Greenham Common.
Big hair, big shoulders, and big phones.
And then there were the Dinkies -Double Income No Kids.
The Sinkies – Single Income No Kids.
And the Niloks.
No Income Loads Of Kids.
The world mourned the death of John Lennon, shot outside his New York apartment.
And everyone wanted to know who shot J.R?"
It was also the decade that saw the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer - the Queen of Hearts whose involvement in charities and willingness to actually get her hands dirty on the behalf of the hurt and needy, marked her as a true Brit. Of course, it also saw her death in Paris, a true tragedy. As the performance notes, her funeral was watched by 2 billion people all around the world.
The Big Breakfast, Baywatch and Mr Blobby!
The Gulf War, Grunge and Goths...
Nelson Mandela was freed and Britain met "The Simpsons"..."
Suddenly, computers were - just - within the reach of the average person, and the age of Information Technology took off. And England had its first total solar eclipse since the one in the Shetland Isles in 1954!
The New Millennium.
The dawn of a new century.
The Noughties meant Harry Potter, hoodies and HD TV.
It was the decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq , 911 and Osama Bin Laden became the world's most wanted man.
Barack Obama was elected the first black president of America...
In 2002 The Queen lost not only her sister, Princess Margaret, but also the dear old Queen Mum who passed away at the grand age of 101.
It was also the decade of the 'celebrity' - people becoming famous for being themselves, as evinced in the hugely funny Jordan skit, starring Jess Randall as a very convincing Katie Price...
"I come across as stupid and thick, but I know exactly what I'm doing. I say I'm a car dealer, I'm a wheeler dealer. I call myself a rich chav. I'm a chav wot does posh things."
Which struck a chord with everyone...
Catherine Tate introduced us to Lauren.
And Little Britain gave us our own local star..."
Which led into a very funny dialogue between interviewer Mark Plumley and Sarah Croker as Vicky Pollard, who later appeared in the rib-ticklingly funny Strictly Come Dancing sketch, dancing with Vladimir Ripyourcorestsov (wonderfully played by Henry Arnold). The judges' exits were priceless: due to budget cuts they were only properly dressed from the waist up, and the assortment of underwear that was revealed as they all stood up and left had to be seen to be appreciated. Think Carry On and you'll get the general idea...
LIL: It don't seem a couple of hours since we heard the old King was dead does it?
LOU: Sixty years eh? It's just flown by. Remember how we watched the Coronation on that little Cossor television, all packed in my front room? LIL: Yeah, and last year we watched the Royal Wedding on my 52 inch, flat screen Panasonic in HD!"
There is no humour in the world quite like that the British can produce - when we're not trying to copy someone else, anyway - and Jubilee is a triumph, absolutely crammed with some of the Best of British of the last 60 years.
The cast were all excellent, and it was great to see so many younger people now involved. The songs were extremely well chosen, including classics such as Downtown, I Got You Babe, Bright Eyes, Candle in the Wind, and modern classics like Don't Cha (accompanied by Vicky Pollard 'dancing', definitely a sight to make your eyes sore!), I Dreamed a Dream, Lady Gaga's Bad Romance (with an extremely well-performed and slightly surreal dance by five of the young members, very much in keeping with the artiste herself) and England Swings, and ending with Land of Hope and Glory. Other sketches of seminal TV and radio series of the times included Eastenders, The Vicar of Dibley, and The Goon Show.
Quintessentially British, and an absolute hoot! Kudos to everyone involved for a truly triffic evening!
Quotes taken from the script, with thanks to Jonathan Rowe: photographs © Rebecca Plumley
Details of St Luke's Players can be found in the BCP directory here.
© 2012 Joules Taylor