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Leading the simple life takes its toll


School Play: a satire on all things English
Frederic Raphael Writer
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The Glittering Prizes went very well. They repeated it once, very quickly, and never again. And I then wrote a film for the BBC, a man called Jim Cellan Jones, whom I happened to have been at Lockites with at Charterhouse. And it's called School Play. And it's about a bunch of people at a public school not 1000 miles from the one which Jim and I went to – Charterhouse – who never leave. They get older and older in the House and they become monitors and various other things, but they never leave school so that actually it's all played by grownups, all the boys, because they're all quite senior. And again we had Denholm Elliott, who was fantastic, and a number of very good actors – Michael Kitchen, who was okay. But it was quite a smart satire on the England where school is the place which, somehow or other, you never quite leave or never want to leave. I mean, the most famous incidence was Cyril Connolly who wrote about... wrote about Eton and he said about himself – self-deprecation again – by the way, that was a cue for a lot of people to deprecate him, too – 'He was at Eton with Orwell, at Oxford with Waugh. He was nothing much after and not a lot before'. Harold Pinter would never dream of writing a piece like that.

Anyway, I wrote this thing called School Play and it was very good. And Jim did it like it was his revenge on Charterhouse, too, because he had, as they now say, issues – oh dear, do they ever? – with Charterhouse. And the BBC showed it and it was a great success. That's to say, lots of people watched it and it got very good reviews, but they never repeated it because somebody at the BBC realised, so they said, what I was really doing which was satirising them. I was also, of course, satirising just about everything else that there was in England. That's what satire does, chum. But it was not well regarded. I've never actually done anything for the BBC television from that day on. So there. Now who hasn't left school?

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: School Play, BBC, Charterhouse

Duration: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014