IT IS an iconic play from the Sixties. For some, synonymous with the on-screen performances of Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft and for the music of Simon and Garfunkel.
Little wonder then that there is excitement at the prospect of The Graduate, Terry Johnson’s play returning to the stage and right here in Huddersfield.
It’s a brave choice, particularly for an amateur society. But it is one that Huddersfield Thespians and the director, Alistair Cheetham, seem to be relishing.
“The piece has a very filmic quality but the play has a different approach in some respects to the film. When I read the script I was struck by the fact that it is very funny. Some people who have seen the film will be very surprised by just how funny it is,” said Alistair.
We are, after all, talking here about a bored housewife whose way of whiling away her time involves a much younger man.
That takes us to the other obvious question concerning The Graduate. Nudity.
And yes, the Thespians’ production of The Graduate will include the show’s leading actress taking her clothes off.
“I have a feeling that people are going to be more offended by the amount that Mrs Robinson smokes,” said Alistair.
The society was certainly not short of actresses keen to take on what has become an irresistible role.
Julie Root, a drama teacher whose has appeared in many leading roles with Huddersfield Thespians, is centre stage as Mrs Robinson, with Chris Walsh (seen earlier in the season in the society’s production of The Heiress) as college graduate Benjamin.
Heather Fielding makes her Thespians’ stage debut as Mrs Robinson’s daughter, Elaine.
And when it comes to the scenes where Mrs Robinson, fuelled by alcohol and driven by loneliness, attempts to seduce Benjamin, director Alistair has no doubts.
“There were three actresses who were interested in playing the role. I asked them how they would feel about these scenes.
“It will be staged how it was done in London’s West End. Not to do the nudity involved would have been to cop out. If I thought it was just gratuitous I wouldn’t do it. But she’s trying to shock Benjamin.”
Tough decisions then for both actors and for a director who is in charge of a Thespians’ production for the first time. It is a combination which might faze some, but not Alistair.
He was born and brought up in Almondbury, went to school at All Saints at Bradley Bar and then university in Staffordshire. He is passionate about theatre and has acted with the Pierrot Players at Shepley and both Halifax and Huddersfield Thespians.
He’s very much a worker, dedicated to doing the best job he can. He quickly progressed at Pierrot Players from acting to directing and at the Thespians in Huddersfield has also moved from doing props, then acting to the director’s slot.
As a director, he says that the worse possible moment he’s encountered was in running a production where he had to try to direct his teenage son in a clinch!
His son, Alex, shares his dad’s love of theatre and performance, though a 17th birthday treat from his parents – a trip to see comedian Eddie Izzard – came close to being a huge disappointment.
“For his 17th birthday, I’d said I’d take him to see Eddie on stage in London. But we broke down on the M1 on the way. We missed the performance.’’
But a letter to Eddie Izzard provided a happy ending.
“I wrote to Eddie, told him what had happened and asked if he would sign a photo for Alex. I thought it would cheer him up.”
But Eddie did more than that. He arranged new tickets for Alex and Alistair and that 17th birthday gift worked a treat!
The Graduate opens at the Lawrence Batley Theatre on Tuesday Jan 20 at 7.30pm and continues each evening with a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Box office is on 01484 430528.