Sunday 20 January 2013

There was something about 1954

What was it about 1954?  It marked the end of wartime rationing in the UK. the closure of Ellis Island and the opening of the first Burger King.  Not to mention the fall of Senator McCarthy.  And the Four Minute Mile.

None of that quite justifies the idea that it was the year of the birth of the modern world.  But I was wondering about it last night when I went to see the revival of Julian Slade's Salad Days at the Riverside Studios - which was absolutely fabulous.  There was something about 1954.

Perhaps I have inherited that feeling from my parents, who kind of emerged into the world around that time.  Salad Days was important to them, with its nervous sense of trying to find something to do after 'coming down' from university.  So was the other product of 1954, the comedy about the Brighton Vintage Car Rally, Genevieve.

The computer Evi designated 11 April 1954 as the most boring year in the twentieth century, and I wondered if that had something to do with it.  It was nine years after the end of World War II, and both Salad Days and Genevieve were about the new generation emerging who really had nothing to do with it except watch.  The very dullness of 1954 provided its charm.  Periods of international excitement don't produce summer fantasies like Salad Days.

There is some hint of the dawning new Elizabethan Age, a year after the coronation.  The generation looked ahead rather than looked back.

I was completely captivated by the production at the Riverside Studios, but it had two big differences from the 1954 original.  What might have been normal speech patterns back then seems like a cut glass accent to us now.  Not using microphones then was just the way things were in the musical theatre; to us, it feels like a new level of authenticity.

But we are post-modern these days, so we are all of us experts in reading the cultural subtitling.  I loved it, and - perhaps because I was born into that world four years later - I felt it said something about me, if only I could have read further between the lines.



Good on you, David! Glad you enjoyed Salad Days. It was my brother what I wrote it and I agree that it is a great production

Adrian Slade


or even ' 'brother what wrote it'...!