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There had been such a fuss about the joint outdoor dramatic performance

to be produced by St Birinus Middle and St Vitus’ School for the Academically-

Gifted Girl, in the ruins of Suttonford Abbey.

Several parents had made complaints about Mr Poskett’s choice of A

Midsummer Night’s Dream.  One misguided harridan had given the Music

Master such a hard time that he commented after the event that it had

been tempting to commit a Midsomer Murder.

Brobdingnagia Worthington’s mother was furious that her daughter, who

should never have been put on any stage, had not been selected for the

role of Titania. Brob, as she was known by her peers, had a ‘hissy fit’


Another mother, who was in her final MA year of a Gender Studies degree,

complained that ‘every Jack shall have his Jill‘ was an offensive line.  She

wanted it re-written as : every Jill shall have their Jack, or Jill.

Mrs Whelks threatened to contact the Board of Governors of both

establishments over the perceived bestiality content.  I mean, someone

bonks a donkey!

Drugs- Lysander’s pupils are said to dilate; accusations of sizeism:

inappropriate references to human maypoles and dwarves.  It was

considered potentially injurious to the psyche of St Birinus‘ most solid

rugby prop to be selected for the part of Snout, or ‘Wall’.

Criticisms by those who had lost funds in the Credit Crunch included-so

sorrow’s heaviness doth heavier grow/ For debt that bankrout sleep doth

sorrow owe– this line and expression was deemed politically incorrect,

particularly by those who were now struggling to pay the raised school


The colour police pounced on Lysander’s reference to a ‘tawny tyrant’ and

would- be nutritionists disliked Demetrius’ admission: like a sickness, did I

loathe this food’, claiming that it might make anorexia and eating disorders


Moonshine, they insisted, should be cut as the name Starveling was immoral.

The anti-hunting lobby were outraged by Theseus’ references to his hounds

and those opposed to arranged marriages were disgusted by Egeus.  Titania

and Oberon were supposedly engaged in child slavery and pimping; Helena in

stalking, provoking Demetrius to exclaim: Do not haunt me thus.  Oberon

hacked into other people’s conversations.

So-called sociologists felt that Helena was colluding in domestic violence by

saying: The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.  As for rude mechanicalls,

this term was only protected by Mr Snodbury pointing out the etymological

ignorance of those who did not know that rude referred to their ruddy

complexions and had nothing whatsoever to do with the working class’

sense of decorum, or lack thereof. (He said ‘ruddy’ rather vehemently, so

that the force of his opinion won the day and the argument, as most

cowards tend to retreat in the face of expletive force.

So, pejorative title, or not, the rustic thespians remained in the cast.

Those fixated on disability discrimination thought parts of Act 5 needed

to be removed- namely:

Never mole, harelip, nor scar,

Nor mark prodigious such as are

Despised in nativity,

Shall upon their children be..

A philosopher-father who had read one of Richard Dawkins’ books berated

the underlying mythology and downright superstition of The Fairy Queen’s

idea that the catalyst of the whole train of sorry events was her tawdry

quarrel with her spouse over a little Indian boy. Shakespeare seemed to

be totally unaware of Chaos Theory.  One flap of a fairy’s wing might have

caused global chaos, the Biology teacher responded vigorously.

And so it was a much Bowdlerised version that emerged.  Mr Snodbury,

echoing Hippolyta, pronounced it the silliest stuff that ever I heard.

No one paid much attention to the histrionics anyway.  The parents who

had insisted on the Junior Recorder Group being retained, even though

there was a derogatory comment in the play about inept playing of reed

instruments by juveniles, were proud when the moment came for their

ensemble, conducted by a slightly inebriated Mr Poskett.  However,

everyone else was scrutinising the labels on the contents of the picnic

baskets and calculating the cost of various outfits.

Dru managed a furtive five minute conversation with Nigel in the interval,

during which she arranged their trip to the Borders.

My mother will have an apopleptic fit, sighed Nigel.  She’s already cleared the

kitchen and sugar soaped the skirting boards in preparation for its  re-

decoration.  She depends on me.

But we agreed that you need a holiday, didn’t we? encouraged Dru.

She saw, out of the corner of an experienced eye, two Juniors crossing


Excuse me, she said.  I’ve got a Health and Safety issue.

Nigel watched her consummate skill in separating the duellists and then

applying an ice cube to an adult’s throbbing digit which had been trapped

in a folding chair.

Nigel watched Mr Poskett receiving parental plaudits and then found himself

being addressed in a hiss by the drama technician.

Can you come to Wardrobe?  We can’t get Bottom’s head off.  Maybe you can help.

Nigel’s confidence was at a low ebb.  What if Dru was to waken to his

inadequacies? What if the wretched boy asphyxiated?  What if Dru woke and

found that straightway she had loved an ass?

He hadn’t even had anything to eat.  Mr Snodbury had wolfed

all the mustard-coated Hippolytas, or was it chipolatas?  Nigel was

beginning to suffer from confusion.  Probably hypoglaecemia. And, no, the

papier mache head was well and truly wedged, in spite of the boy’s neck

being greased by somebody’s foie gras.  They’d have to put on the

understudy and he, Nigel, would have to spend the evening in Casualty.