The Darling Buds of May


November 18th - 21st 2009


Carol Davis

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Info Edit

The Darling Buds of May was Stage-Door's 34th show at the Windmill theatre and was directed by Carol Davies, returning to direct after her highly praised work on Blue Remembered Hills.

The Darling Buds of May was a British television series which was first broadcast between 1991 and 1993 produced by Yorkshire Television for the ITV Network. It is set in an idyllic rural 1950s Kent, among a large, boisterous family. The three series were based on the novels by H. E. Bates. Originally categorised by Yorkshire TV as a drama, some regard it as a comedy. The earlier episodes are perhaps more comical, and the episode "A Season of Heavenly Gifts", is certainly more dramatic than the others.

The key characters were Pop Larkin (David Jason), Ma Larkin (Pam Ferris), who were unmarried, their eldest daughter Mariette (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and tax-collector Cedric Charlton (Philip Franks), who is re-christened Charley by the Larkins. Charley arrives at the beginning of the first episode to get Pop Larkin to fill in his tax forms. He is distracted from this when he falls in love with Mariette Larkin at first sight, and the Larkins distract him even further by attempting to teach him to play crib, and getting him drunk. In spite of his terrible hangover the next day, he becomes captivated by the idyllic country life led by the Larkins, and ends up as a member of the family.

The show was an instant success for the network with the show's feel-good factor during a period of economic recession often noted as the reason. The show launched the acting career of Zeta-Jones.

"The darling buds of May" is a quotation from Shakespeare's sonnet XVIII: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May | And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

The programme was filmed in the village of Pluckley, Kent and nearby locations. The farm used in the series is a private residence and not normally open to the public but can be visited once a year on the occasion of the Darling Buds Classic Car Show, an annual charitable event held in the farm grounds with the permission of the owner. No filming was done inside the farmhouse, the interiors having been shot in a studio, but devotees of the series are free on that day to see all the external locations used around the farm in the programme.

The complete 3 series, plus special episodes, have been released on DVD and remain widely available.

H. E. Bates wrote five books involving the Larkin family, the titles of the first four of which were used as episode titles for the TV series:

  • The Darling Buds of May (1958)
  • A Breath of French Air (1959)
  • When the Green Woods Laugh (1960)
  • Oh! To be in England (1963)
  • A Little of What You Fancy (1970)

From the Director Edit

H.E. Bates' invention of the 'Perfick' Pop Larkin and his large and loving family is in a direct line of descent from the Merry England of Chaucer and Shakespeare and conjures up a romantic dream of sunshine and plenty set among the Kentish landscape of apple orchards, hop gardens and strawberry fields.  In 1957, England was still recovering from the privations of post war rationing but Pop's family somehow lack for nothing.  Their table groans with Ma Larkin's wonderful cooking, with huge roasts and puddings as the children have an endless supply of ice-creams and crisps.  Thank goodness no-one in this utopia is counting calories or units of alcohol as Pop dispenses ever more inventive cocktail shaker.  No wonder the story of the Larkin family was a success when it was adapted for television in the early 1990's when the country was last in the grip of recession and we hope that the Larkin's zest for everything life has to offer helps to lift everyone's spirits in these chilly November days.

I am very grateful to Stage-Door for giving me the chance to direct this play and to the cast and company for all the fun and hard work that have gone into bringing it to the Windmill stage.  We wish you all a 'Perfick' evening!

Carol Davies.

Cast Edit

Pop Larkin - David Williams
Ma Larkin - Fiona Humphrey
Mariette Larkin - Lyndsey Bowen / Harriet Roberts
Montgomery Larkin - Harry Perry
Primrose Larkin - Maddie Daisy Denby
Petunia Larkin - Josephine Sunderland
Zinnia Larkin - Chloe Retter
Victoria Larkin - Kirsty Ferris
Cedric Charlton - John Carroll
Edith Pilchester - Ann Anderson
Pauline Jackson - Harriet Roberts / Anna Leesley-Brown
Angela Snow - Karen Perry
The Brigadier - David Griffin
Sir George Bluff-Gore - Tony Makey
Lady Bluff-Gore - Micki Darbyshire
Tax Inspector - Brenda Hargraves
Party Guests - Alan Moss, Mike Gearing, Ricky Davey, Gary Boniface

Crew Edit

Director - Carol Davies
Stage Manager - Ricky Davey
Back Stage Crew - Gary Boniface, Alan Moss, Louise Moss, Mike Gearing
Lighting - Harry Leisk
Sound - Barry Tinkler
Sound Effects created by - Stephen Simpson
Props - Christine Moss
Wardrobe - Sandra Booker
Set Design/Construction - Ricky Davey, Mike Gearing, Darren Retter, Tony Makey and Gary Boniface
Posters/Programs - Joy Covey
Publicity - Micki Darbyshire
Fight Co-Ordinator - Chris Davey

Awards Edit

Stage-door Best Performance Award was awarded  went to Fiona Humphrey for her portrayal as Ma Larkin