30 years of Public School Boys
It’s just been announced that Jeremy Herrin’s production of ANOTHER COUNTRY will play at the Trafalgar Studios from March 26th – June 21st. The reviews have been terrific so it’s no surprise but what is a bit of a shocker is that it’s 30 years since audiences first watched this tale of a rebellious, gay young man who becomes so alienated from the upper class establishment by his treatment at public school that he becomes a spy.
It was inspired by the exposure of traitor Anthony Blunt and the time that playwright Julian Mitchell spend with him at school and it was part of a whole wave of upper-class culture that inspired 80’s teenagers to wear cricket sweaters and floppy fringes. Or was that just me?
Anyway, by the time I left drama school in the 90s there was just time for me to cash in on the vogue for effete young actors that started with Yorkshire Television's extraordinary adaptation of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, which is still glorious three decades later. It was all compounded by the film producers Merchant Ivory presenting a series of wildly popular adaptations of E.M Forster’s Edwardian novels. Movies like MAURICE, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, PASSAGE TO INDIA and HOWARDS END catapulted a whole plethora of toffs to stardom including Helena Bonham-Carter, Rupert Graves (currently TV’s Inspector Lestrad in SHERLOCK) Daniel Day Lewis & Simon Callow, all breaking out the cucumber sandwiches with national treasures like Maggie Smith and Judy Dench.
But no 80’s upper-class drama has launched quite as many careers as ANOTHER COUNTRY. Of necessity the teenage characters force producers to take a punt on newcomers rather than star names and as a result Rupert Everett, Day-Lewis (again) and Kenneth Branagh all got their West End breaks in the play.
We shall have to see if it does the same for newcomers Will Attenborough and Rob Callender who lead the current revival but it’s interesting to note that the new version also stars Julian Wadham as the play's only adult character.
Wadham began his career as one of the School Boys in the first production. Let’s hope the newbies have as long a career as he has.