'George, Don't Do That' review

GEORGE, DON'T DO THAT by Joyce Grenfell
United Reformed Church, Buxton. 15th & 22nd July 2009

Joyce Grenfell's six monologues about the trials and tribulations of a nursery class teacher were published in 1977 - but must have been written in the mid 1960s. No matter they sound, for the most part, pretty contemporary.

OK you don't get many Sidneys, Peggys or Nevilles in your average class, nor is the class hamster likely to be called Harold Wilson (or Gordon Brown or David Cameron come to that). OK, today's nursery teacher and nursery nurses will probably be armed with a clipboard as they carry out dozens of observations and assessments. OK, few early years professionals come from the same southern, English finishing school as Joyce Grenfell and so don't have the cut-glass accent. But apart from that remarkably little has changed.

The business of organising children for collective productions (The Nativity Play here); trying to release the creative in children through improvised dancing to music (Flowers - "don't forget to breathe Peggy"); famously monitoring children's chosen activity - "each little individual - each one expressing his little personality" (Free Activity Period); trying to develop a story with a group of children - in this case about "an ordinary businessman bunny rabbit" but sadly concluding "I don't think love is enough with children" (Story Time); trying to get the class to sing (Sing Song Time) only to waste minutes because some poor child - Sidney here - mishears 'flute' as 'fruit' and is naturally puzzled; Going Home Time allows for further reflections on the hapless Sidney ("We don't think he's very talented but we think it is important to encourage his self-expression - we don't know where it might lead").

Oh the joys. Here Joyce is played admirably by Gayle Dennis. Gayle doesn't strain too hard to get the accent exactly Joyce - but she's 'posh' enough. Certainly her posture and body language seem spot-on - she looks right through you and she bends, just slightly, with clasped hands - exhorting us to behave and to succeed. She seems suitably exhausted by the end of the week with the dear children ("You're not hurt Dolores - you're just surprised"). The praise and encouragement, which was evident in the earlier monologues, is replaced by a desperate pleading at the end.

The full house loved this show. I think you will too.

Keith Savage

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