1957 Staff Operetta ‘Somnia’

Bruce Fieldsend writes:

The first staff production was “Somnia”. I attach a review by Iain Campbell. One of my deathless lines sung to “Rock around the Clock” during a history lesson was:

“Nelson said about to die

Kiss me Hardy don’t be shy”

Staff Operetta – ‘SOMNIA: (First Performed 7 December, 1957)

It was a fitting finale to Mr. Sellers’ career at Peterhouse that the operetta “Somnia” had such a resounding success. With story and lyrics by Messrs. Mallett and Fisher and tunes by Mr. Sellers, who also accompanied on the piano, a veritable hotch-potch of variety was served up to make it a memorable and hilarious evening.

Will Hay’s pupils could have looked no less scholarly than the desperate bunch of Pothouse pioneers who sat on Monkey Hill at a midnight feast of Castle Ale and Gold Leaf. Aware that something dastardly was afoot, Stinks Anderson (I.R.F.), the Chemistry master, complete with Mephistophilean moustache, was on the prowl. The lighting, the music and the fact that it was midsummer night all led one to believe that something supernatural would occur. It did.

Post haste from Mount Olympus came the goddess Nectarina (A.B.C.) swathed in sheets and strawberry blond hair, in quest of her old flame Somnia (A.W.H.M.). In less time than it took to say Ohms’ Law Stinks was bewitched by her beauty, and from her amorous glances the affection seemed reciprocated. Soon a dazed Somnia awoke from his 100 years’ nap. The problem now centered round the activities and energies of both pupils and beaks to keep him awake for 24 hours and thus obviate his burden of ostracism.

The scene in which Somnia as a new boy, is inspected by buxom Sister Magnesia Codeine (C.D.F.), complete with lethal giant-size syringe in the surgery, lifted the roof. But quite the best scene was the divided set showing Latin and History lessons being conducted by M.M.S. and R.A.R. Interposed among deafening choruses of Rock ‘n Roll origin, both paedagogi and pupils versified on their respective subjects. In this respect none did better than boys J.A.B. and B.R.F.; the former could have stepped out of the pages of the Boys’ Own Paper. Next one saw a yawning Somnia introduced to the arts of rugby, football, adn this spectacle was watched by three Housemasters in the persons of A.C., A.B.C., and C.D.F., who combined in a very trite ditty about the “dear boys” they were watching.

At last the eventful 24 hours drew to a close, and it was left to three V.I.P.s (A.C., B.R.F. and M.M.G.), complete with beards, Mount Olympus and six notes, to straighten up the mortal/immortal matrimonial tangle. While a well-nigh exhausted Somnia, pipe in mouth, took a one-way ticket to Olympus with Sister Magnesia, Nectarina received a special dispensation and was permitted to remain on earth with her beloved Anderson

It did not matter one jot if some of the songs had a faint flavour of some bygone favourite, it was with a certain nostalgia that more than one member of a delighted audience went to bed humming the final tune, perhaps with a lump in his throat.