The Bed-Sitting Room

"The Bed-Sitting Room" is a satirical play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus. It started off as a one-act play which was first produced at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. This was adapted to a longer play which was first performed in 1963 at London's Mermaid Theatre, it was a critical and commercial hit, and was revived in 1967. A film based on the play was released in 1970, although this was less successful. The film was directed by Richard Lester and the cast included Ralph Richardson, Arthur Lowe, Rita Tushingham, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Michael Hordern, Marty Feldman, Harry Secombe and Milligan himself. The screenplay was adapted by Charles Wood.

(In Manchester presentation some goons threw paper aeroplanes onto the stage.)

The play is set in a post-apocalyptic London, nine months after World War III ("the Nuclear Misunderstanding"), which lasted for two minutes and twenty eight seconds – "including the signing of the peace treaty".cite web|url=|title=The Bed Sitting Room (1969)|work=Phespirit |accessdate=2008-07-05] Nuclear fallout is producing strange mutations in people; the title refers to the character Lord Fortnum, who finds himself transforming into a bed-sitting room (other characters turn into a parrot and a wardrobe). The plot concerns the fate of the first child to be born after the war.

Film Synopsis

The film is set on the third or fourth anniversary of a war which lasted two hours and twenty-eight minutes. Three years after the nuclear holocaust, several survivors wander amidst the debris of London. Penelope is 17 months pregnant and lives with her lover, Alan, and her parents in the remains of the London Underground.

Other survivors include Capt. Bules Martin, who holds a "Defeat of England" medal, as he was unable to save Buckingham Palace from disintegration during the war. Lord Fortnum is fearful that he will mutate into the "bed sitting room" of the title. Mate is a fireguard, except that there is nothing left to burn. Shelter Man serves as a regional "head of government" over a decimated population. Similarly, the "National Health Service" is the name of a male nurse, although overwhelmed by the extent of the past war. Finally, there are two policemen who hover overhead in a balloon and shout "keep moving" to offset the 'danger' of becoming a 'target' in the (unlikely) event of another outbreak of hostilities.

Lord Fortnum travels to 29 Cul de Sac Place and "does" become a bed sitting room. Penelope's mother is provide with a death certificate, after which she turns into a cupboard. Penelope is forced to marry Martin because of his "bright future", despite her love for Alan. Her father is initially selected to become Prime Minister due to his prodigious leg length, but unfortunately, he mutates into a parrot and is cooked and eaten due to the starvation conditions that prevail.

Penelope finally gives birth, but her monstrous mutant progeny dies. It emerges that Martin is impotent, so he yields marriage consummation to Alan. Penelope has a second child, who is normal, and there is an indication of hope for the future amidst the devastation. She, Alan and her child walk off together. A band pays homage to Mrs. Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone, the late Queen's former charwoman, and thus closest in succession to the throne.

et Design

The absurdity of the film extends even to the settings. One scene is shot besides a pile upon which a British pottery firm had been throwing rejected plates since World War IIcite encyclopedia
last = Brosnan
first = John
authorlink = John Brosnan
editor = Nicholls, Peter
encyclopedia = The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
title = Bed-Sitting Room, The
accessdate = 2008-07-12
edition = 1st
date = 1979
publisher = Granada
location =
isbn =0-586-05380-8
pages = 63–64
] (the joke being that an actor is looking for a dish that isn't broken). Another set of the film is a mock triumphal arch made of appliance doors, beneath which a Mrs. Ethel Shroake ("of 393A High Street, Leytonstone"), the closest in line for the throne, is mounted on a horse. Even the closing credits have a touch of the absurd, listing the cast not by appearance or alphabetically, but by height.

Literary and Dramatic Counterparts

"The Bed-Sitting Room" can be compared with Milligan's previous "Goon Show", but with a savage, cynical and even more surreal edge, and an existential despair; one critic memorably described it as being "like Samuel Beckett, but with better jokes". It may have been in part, lampooning Aldous Huxley's pessimistic 1948 novel, "Ape and Essence".


External links


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