Saturday, 23 August 2014

Autumn Term by Antonia Forest

published 1948




[A schoolgirl production of The Prince and the Pauper: Tim – a girl – is producing, twins Nicola and Lawrie are playing the two main roles of young boys who swap places: the swap is about to take place]

They were playing well and fast, no pauses, snapping up their cues. Tim glanced at the lighting plot to make sure when her next cue came and permitted herself to relax and enjoy it. Tom eating hungrily, watching the Prince with round-eyed hero-worship, answering Edward’s questions with artless childish deference… the sudden plan to change clothes… Nicola dashing off-stage and tossing her apparel to a Lawrie almost hidden behind the throne (‘Because if they don’t see you change, they won’t believe it,’ Tim had insisted when Nicola had protested that it would be much quicker if they both changed off-stage); Lawrie swaggering down-stage, smoothing her hair, peacocking before a mirror, Nicola coming on a second later, and the sudden burst of applause from the delighted audience...






observations:
Antonia Forest’s niche but ever-popular school stories have many selling points, and one of them is that she does theatrical productions extremely well – several of her books contain detailed descriptions of school plays and other performances, and very engrossing they are too. The same is true of Noel Streatfeild’s stage school books (here, and click on label below for many others) of course, but Forest's are generally not professional productions – though Lawrie is supposed to be an exceptional actress, with the possibility of a proper career ahead of her. She’d have been snapped up by Streatfeild’s Madame Fidolia. 




Autumn Term is the first of Forest’s books. She wrote about trying to make the genre more realistic: ‘No tomboys, no midnight feasts, no life-and-death adventures, no marvellously popular young headmistress, no wise and over-responsible head girl, “beloved of the juniors”, on whom the Headmistress relied.’ She succeeded in this – at first glance the books might resemble every other boarding school story, but they have a magic something missing from her contemporaries. She wrote them over 30 years, simply going along with the passage of time – Tim, Nick and Lawrie are in 1948 above: by the time of Attic Term they are a couple of years older, but it is definitely 1976 outside. But no harm in that, Forest makes it work. She wrote four school stories, more books about the same family at home in the holidays, and a couple of historical novels.

End of Term - and the school Nativity Play – has featured on the blog, while Falconer’s Lure provided a MayDay entry, and Peter’s Room one for Twelfth Night.

The comic cover dates from 1946, the film stills are from the 1937 film version of The Prince and the Pauper - the original Mark Twain story has been filmed and televised many times. The Prince is the future Edward VI. 

10 comments:

  1. Oh, this does sounds like fun, Moira. And just from the snipped you've shared, I got a very good sense of Forest's ability to tell theatre stories. Nice too to have a story that's not 'cookie cutter.' And I've always liked The Prince and the Pauper...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it's nice to match up the old story with the new one. And I always love stories about young people's productions, even though I never had the slightest interest or talent myself in real life.

      Delete
  2. Moira, you certainly piqued my curiosity with the cover of the classic comic-book. I find school-based stories a lot of fun and I have read a few books in this sub-segment of YA including the "Just William" series by Richmal Crompton.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew some of my readers would appreciate a comic cover! And yes you are so right - there was nothing Just William liked better than to take part in some amateur dramatics, with predictable results....

      Delete
  3. Agree with Prashant, just the comic cover itself got me interested. Amateur theatricals interesting too. When Glen and I were first together he was embroiled in a small amateur theater group, with a very good friend, and I even did some tech work with them. Glen's sister liked to act and met her second husband there (he was tech too). So even school plays resonate.

    One of Caroline Graham's mysteries is about an amateur theatrical group and I plan to reread it soon. Of course, I have mixed memories of the experience myself. It was fun to read this and remember.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I say above - I don't do this in real life, but I love a theatre production in a book. Even more so if it is a crime story, there's something about dramatic groups and murder...

      Delete
  4. I love your blog! When I was a child, I was obsessed with going to boarding school, mainly due to the Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. They were SO hard to get hold of - as indeed was any specific book was, when I was 10 years old and lived in a tiny village on the Isle of Mull. Having said that, the village had just two shops and a PO,but one of the shops was, joy of joys, a bookshop (as well as a coffee shop and a tiny newsagent - books took precedence.) The owner also played a film in the village hall every Monday night. As possibly the only local child customer, the man who ran it, and his wife, encouraged and guided my love of books and films (my parents were farmers, and had no time or energy for culture - my dad left school at 14, although you would never guess if you heard him talk about politics or history. Luckily they were more than happy to encourage my love of books, and were generous buying them when we were in a town or city.) It's to them, though, the shop owners, Mr and Mrs Pitman - now very elderly - I thank for my love of books and film and art, really, all culture. Sorry for rambling on!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Linda, and what a lovely piece of personal history, that was fascinating. I felt exactly as you did about the Chalet School and boarding school generally, even though I'm sure I would not have liked it at all in real life... I lived in a big city, but mostly could only get books from the library, and I would be hoping and hoping at every visit that there would be a Chalet School book there, even better one I had never read.

      Delete
  5. Hmm........reminds me a bit of my own school days in the plays........such dramas dahling.....no, not for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very much not for you, I think, but some time you must write about your acting experiences on the blog.

      Delete