Year: 2006

Title of the play: Donkey’s Years

Author: Michael Frayn

Director: Jeremy Sams

Others in the Cast: David Haig, Michael Simkins, Mark Addy, James Dreyfus, Michael Fitzgerald, Jonathan Coy, Chris Moran, Samantha Bond.


Theatre and location: Comedy Theatre, London

Other productions of the same play: 

Plot summary: The setting is an Oxbridge college at reunion time, specifically the 25th anniversary gathering of six middle-aged men, their long-serving porter (Edward Petherbridge), a youngish English don (Chris Moran), and the lone woman, an erstwhile goodtime gal who is now the wife of the Master of the college and a titled magistrate to boot.

Peth’s role: Sydney Birkett


Michael Simkins and Jonathan Coy show the straight-men can be as funny as anyone, while David Haig’s style, with its forceful precision, adapts excellently to comedy. Against the mayhem, Edward Petherbridge’s Mr Birkett, the ever-suave College Head Porter, is a model of unfazed calm. This is a thoughtful, yet often hilarious evening. Timothy Ramsden, Reviews Gate


Earlier, when the reunion graduates arrive 25 years on from their university heydays, and Edward Petherbridge's delightful, suave Head Porter welcomes them with sherry and flattery in the college quadrangle, Frayn revels in character comedy. Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard

The faithful old scout played by Edward Petherbridge, one of a number of excellent pieces of casting, welcomes his former charges as if they were returning from a long vacation rather than a sustained period of high-powered career development. Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide, 2006

Donkeys’ Years is about an Oxbridge reunion, with Birkett, the head porter, a man of dignified servility (Edward Petherbridge) as its bowler-hatted MC. - John Peter, The Sunday Times, May 14, 2006

Sams brilliantly choreographs the farcical action, while also capturing the sheer ghastliness of middle-aged, middle-class men trying to relive their youth. Since one of the characters is a pompous government minister, who spends the last act with his trousers round his ankles, the play has acquired a felicitously topical satirical edge. There isn't a single weak performance from the nine-strong cast, who range from a ghastly, screaming queen of a curate (Michael Fitzgerald) to Edward Petherbridge's delightfully rueful college porter. - Charles Spencer, The Telegraph

In fact, the men assembled here are 40-somethings who have returned to an unnamed Oxbridge college for their 25th anniversary, presided over by a porter (Edward Petherbridge) who seems not to have changed one jot even though the men have in varying ways grown balder, richer and camper.  - Bloomberg

The Independent

Production details:
Designer: Peter McKintosh.
Lighting: Howard Harrison.
Sound: John Leonard.

Related links:


EP with Samantha Bond and Mark Addy

Original pic here

 Original pic here

Original pic here

From Wireimage
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