Sunday Afternoon Again by Michael Yates

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Encore Audio's Repertory of Plays

Encore Audio, 2009
In 1958 the BBC broadcast a classic episode of Hancock's Half Hour - "Sunday Afternoon at Home" - in which the Lad Himself tried to while away the hours between lunch and dinner, aided and abetted by Sid James and Bill Kerr. Nothing could alleviate the boredom of sitting around doing nothing: Hancock's dialogue was punctuated with frequent sighs, as if wishing that time could pass more quickly.
Michael Yates' play is not a comedy, but it harkens back to a similar period in post-war British history, when Sunday afternoon comprised a series of familiar rituals - all completely meaningless in themselves, but giving structure to the lives of a northern family.  Dad (Eddie Lawlor) goes out every morning to buy The People; returns home; sits in his chair; and then spruces himself up prior to visiting the pub.  After having a skinful - and missing his dinner - he returns home, fights with his wife (Irene Lofthouse) and mother-in-law (Barbara Wiles) and retires to bed before tea.  Meanwhile Mum cooks the dinner while Nan spends most of her time grumbling about how modern life is "not like the old days."
Yates structures his play as a reminiscence of childhood, in which Old Lenny (Steve Arloff) - now a pensioner himself - looks back on those Sundays.  While they seem somewhat absurd in the modern world (especially with all-day opening hours), they were strictly observed by his family.  Yates also showed how the world - as seen through a child's eyes - is very different from that of his adult peers; while fulfilling his imaginative fantasies of trying to catch a witch, Young Lenny (Matthew Merrick) steals some photographs belonging to his Nan, which makes so upset that it perhaps hastens her death.
Sharply observed, with a cleverly structured soundtrack containing familiar musical themes of the mid-1950s (Ella Fitzgerald's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," the opening theme to The Billy Cotton Band Show), Sunday Afternoon Again vividly demonstrated how the past exerts a powerful influence over the present, however absurd it might seem.