Monday, April 14, 2008

An Opinion on Teachers and the play, "The Salad Days"

I am just so glad that I can write about The Salad Days, more than 30 years after my school staged the musical in 1969.

I was already a temporary teacher and embarking on a new journey in life. The school continued to be a busy hive of activities and school academic results were getting better and better. We also had teachers who were very dedicated like Miss Jackie Fries, Mrs. Wong Bing Sing to name a few who would even give free tuition in the afternoon for the weaker students. They had so much love for the students and cooperated with the Principal to raise performance levels.

Today when teachers are getting bad press and some do not even bother to enter their class, I am just so saddened that the next generation has to look for other means to become educated.

Teachers should be totally dedicated to their profession in being surrogate parents and inculcating values in the young minds. Students need to have role models they can depend on.

Today there are too many horror stories of teachers not teaching properly, even the basic fundamentals, or even wrongly (like pronunciation), playing truant and telling the students to tell lies to their parents ("Don't tell this to your parents, or else I will punish you.....")

I still believe that being a teacher is a sacred command. No one who has a flaw in character should become a teacher.

There is one young teacher who went to teach a class using a " borrowed lesson plan". He almost could not execute the lesson in front of the supervisors. He has arrogantly said that he would one day become a teacher's trainer or lecturer at the Institute of Higher Learning for Teachers. He cannot even do a good day's work as a House Master on Sports Day, claiming that the sun is too hot for his skin. If our policy makers cannot recognise this kind of personality, then I am afraid there is a huge hole in the education system of our country.

How can we have a generation that loves the arts and the sciences with the help of teachers who can make us perform like professionals and using a British play like the Salad Days? 1969 was the year which proved that school children, when well directed can perform as well as any English school in England. That was almost 40 years ago. The play was played in Batu Lintang, and Rejang. They even transported the wooden piano made by the woodwork teacher of the school. The play fired the creative imagination of the students and inspired so many to desire a tertiary education. But most of all, we learned the real meaning of entertainment and the art of life.

They need all the accolade we can give....even today!!

Book and Lyrics by Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade

Music by Julian Slade


SALAD DAYS started its life in June 1954 at the Theatre Royal, Bristol. Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade had been commissioned to write an end-of-season summer show for the Bristol Old Vic Company and it was scheduled to run just three weeks. But Fate - and a London Management - intervened. On August 5th. 1954 they opened with the same production at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, and stayed there for five and a half years, becoming (for then) the longest running musical in the history of the British Theatre.

It has been playing somewhere in the world ever since - and in 1969 in Sibu, Kuching and Bintangor, Sarawak.

Newly acquired BA gowns hang heavy on the shoulders of Jane and Timothy. Having got this far, what on earth do they do next? They could get married, of course (so they do), but how can they make a living? In a London park one breathlessly warm summer day they encounter a tramp who trundles round a mobile mini-piano. Even tramps need a holiday now and then, and he invites the young graduates to look after his business interests for a month at £7 per week plus whatever they can collect. The piano is not just any old mobile mini; those who hear it find themselves dancing, even against their better judgment. On this gentle thread of story is strung a series of revue-type scenes providing rich opportunities for versatile comedy players who can also sing and dance.

The story of Salad Days begins in the precincts of a University, where a Tramp is trying out a new melody on a battered old street piano. (Opening Music), His musings are soon interrupted by the arrival of a gaggle of Dons who have come to bid farewell to two departing graduates, Jane and Timothy. (The Things That Are Done By a Done). The young couple are sad to leave the University, but determined to face uptothe future. (We Said We Wouldn't Look Back). Their future, however, is uncertain, as both are being harassed by their parents, she to find a suitable husband, he a suitable job, following in the footsteps of one of his influential uncles. His troubles usually begin at breakfast. (Find Yourself Something To Do).

The pair arrange to meet in a London park. As usual, Jane is on time, Timothy is not. (I Sit In the Sun). They discuss their future and decide it would simplify life to marry each other and take the first job that comes along. This proves easy, for the Tramp arrives wheeling the old piano, and offers them seven pounds a week to look after it for a month. On hearing the Tramp play it, they discover to their amazement that the piano produces in them an irresistable urge to dance. (Oh, Look at Me!).

Timothy temporarily appeases his parents by going to the Foreign Office to see his Uncle Clam (Hush-Hush), but he is soon back in the park with Jane and the piano (now christened 'Minnie'), eager to discover if it will make everyone else dance too. Indeed it does - from street urchins to policemen to Bishops! (Oh, Look at Me: Reprise). It is not long before the park is full of people exhausted from dancing to Minnie's tune. (Out of Breath).

An admirer of Jane's, Nigel, not knowing that she is now secretly married, invites her to a night-club called 'The Cleopatra' where they witness a somewhat unusual cabaret (Cleopatra and Sand In My Eyes). On leaving the club they meet up with Tim, and he and Jane persuade a reluctant Nigel to try out his singing voice. (It's Easy To Sing)

News of the piano's irregular activities reaches the ears of the fun-hating Minister of Pleasure and Pastime who threatens to suppress it. Tim and Jane decide to hide Minnie, but find to their dismay she is really lost. (We're Looking For a Piano).

Jane meets the Tramp again, who does not seem at all perturbed by the disappearance of the piano, and she is able to relax for a while to enjoy the summer and sunshine. (The Time of My Life). She and Timothy receive unexpected help in their search from Tim's Uncle Zed, a zany scientist who conveniently descends in his flying saucer and whisks them off for a bird's-eye view... (The Saucer Song).

Meanwhile their anxious mothers lament that they never know what their children are up to. (We Don't Understand Our Children).

The piano is found, but the month of guardianship is over, and Minnie must be handed on to the next young couple - Nigel and his newly found girl-friend Fiona. Nigel finds, to his surprised delight, he can play as well as sing. (Oh, Look at Me: Reprise).

It is hard for Tim and Jane to see the piano go, but, having each other, they are hopeful of a future as happy as the past. (We Said We Wouldn't Look Back: Reprise).

Julian Slade, London 1982

Major Roles
(showing the original doubling)

Jane. Timothy's mother/Heloise/Asphynxia.
Lady Raeburn/a cabaret dancer/Marguerite.
Fiona/ a beauty-parlour assistant/a shopgirl.
Aunt Prue/a manicurist/Rowena.
Timothy. Troppo, a mute.
The tramp/a bishop/a photographer.
Timothy's father/a Police Inspector/the Minister of Pleasure and Pastime/Ambrose.
Uncle Clamsby/a night-club manager/Uncle Zed.
Fosdyke/Nigel. P.C. Boot/Electrode.


The Scenes
A park backcloth or drapes can be used throughout. Other scenes are represented with simple cut-outs, insets or drop cloths, or played in front of running tabs.

Act I

The University grounds.
The breakfast-room at Timothy's home.
A London park.
A beauty parlour.
A room at the Foreign Office.
An office in Scotland Yard

Act II

A night club.
A park café terrace.
A dress shop.
The park.
A flying saucer

Musical Numbers:
The Things That Are Done By A Don - Company
We Said We Wouldn't Look Back - Jane and Timothy
Find YOurself Something To Do - Timothy's Father, Mother & Aunt Prue
I Sit In the Sun - Jane
Oh, Look At Me! - Jane & Timothy
Hush-Hush - Uncle Clam, Fosdyke & Timothy
Out Of Breath - Company
Cleopatra - The Manager
Sand In My Eyes - Asphynxia
It's Easy To Sing - Jane, Timothy & Nigel
We're Looking For a Piano - Company
The Time Of My Life - Jane & the Tramp
The Saucer Song - Uncle Zed, Jane & Timothy
We Don't Understand Our Children - Jane's Mother & Timothy's Mother
There is no special arrangement for two pianos. For productions accompanied in this way, both pianists should play from the published piano/vocal score, the second using it as the basis for improvisation to give added depth and colour. Scores for Double Bass and Drums are available on hire.

Source : Julian Slade, "The Salad Days"

Without the Internet , I definitely cannot write this article 39 years after I watched the play in Sibu. I have forgotten some of the names but in order to prevent any embarrassment, I am not writing personal remarks about any of the acting.

But Well Done to all of you who performed.

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