|The Colour of Molesworth
||[Jan. 10th, 2011|11:40 pm]
Diane spotted someone’s Twitter enquiry about the skool uniform colours of that admirable educational institution St Custard’s, but when she asked my advice, to mutual surprise I couldn't produce an answer straight away. So I went looking. Well, you do, don’t you?
It would seme that Skool uniform colours aren't described anywhere in the text, at least nowhere I spotted during an admittedly cursory flip through my copy of The Compleet Molesworth. The interior black and white line drawings by Ronald Searle most frequently show a light blazer with dark lapels, light piping and a badge on the breast pocket.
How to be Topp (Armada and Armada Lion, also Puffin, all early-1970s paperbacks) represent it as a yellow blazer with black piping, which is also the colour scheme used on at least one (the US?) version of Back in the Jug Agane, an edition of The Compleet Molesworth, (Pavilion 1985) and a retitled compilation simply called Molesworth (Penguin Modern Classics 2009.) The most common cover for Whizz for Atomms shows Molesworth 1 in a bubble-helmeted space-suit, though it does have a school badge on the chest, but lurking in the depths of Google Images (it was lurking, not me) I found a tiny cover image of an Atomms cover where once again he is clad in yellow-and-black. This colour scheme is not only the one most recently and frequently used, it's probably the most easily recognised, and also most closely represents the light-blazer-with-dark-piping of the monochrome drawings.
The above fakts are correkt for a change. I had all of the above books when I too was but a mere skoolboy, but after the passage of many years, had cause to check my recollections in the aforesaid Google Images. (Posh prose eh? Go it, Morwood.)
However Searle's drawings also show a light blazer with light lapels and dark piping, a dark blazer with dark lapels and light piping, and a "Henley Regatta" striped blazer suitable for both Fotherington-Thomas and that rather unsettling pupil whose "developing individual character" evidently includes Resurrection, and not the kind taught in Divinity. These are all in Down with Skool, so it's not a change of uniform between different books. Long trousis are usual, with shorts for new bugs. The school cap is always represented as being "hooped" – horizontally striped – light and dark, with a badge at the front.
The Down with School cover of the Armada and Armada Lion 1970s paperback shows a red blazer with yellow piping and a red and yellow hooped cap; these colours also appear on the cover of Back in the Jug again (same publisher, and when viewed alongside Down with Skool, very clearly the same cover designer.) The red blazer also appears on a reissue (or possibly US edition) of The Compleet Molesworth but when compared to the frequency of the yellow-and-black colour scheme, the red-and-yellow is no more than a temporary aberration.
Or hav I missed something…?
(And I note that miss_next is looking for some information about Radio Malt. I shall go looking for that, too. Funny that two questions about Molesworth would pop up on the same day... It must be an omen.)
Is the Molesworth illumination to the inner cover of Down with Skool
anything like this?
And furthermore, here's the strange YouTube stop-motion thing
I've been wondering why Rupert ("Ron Weasley") Grint keeps popping up in searches involving Molesworth and his book titles; it turns out he did a reading of "Down with Skool" for the BeebBeebSee.
At least I think it was a reading, because I can't imagine how you'd start to dramatise something like this, and
since a large part of Molesworth's dotty charm is his idiosyncratic approach to spelling, any vocal version is going to have to work harder than usual. Must download one of the several versions and give it a listen...
SO I've listened to "Down with Skool..."
It really is a sort of semi-dramatisation, with Grint voicing Molesworth (and, equally importantly, his "reel thorts".) There's a small additional cast of others playing "everyone else" - teachers, parents and a tribe of rebellious prunes (yes, really) - and a generous sprinkling of sound-effect stings from the BBC SFX archive (often misplaced or not needed: the equivalent of saying "this is a joke" in case people don't get it.)
But does it work?
No, not really. Obviously all the visual stuff - eccentric spelling, sudden EMPHASIS, breathless run-on sentences and a cavalier approach to punctuation - is gone, as well as Searle's artwork.
What remains is pretty leaden stuff, mostly because it sounds like Rupert Grint phoned in his performance. No, something phoned in would have had more animation; this, delivered in a flat, seldom-varying monotone not far removed from a good speech synthesizer, was texted* in.
(*Discuss Molesworthian English as an ancestor of modern chatspeak - five pages, begin...)
The studio director is equally to blame for accepting such a lacklustre reading. In fact the whole thing sounds oddly more like the first read-through than a finished production, as if they ran out of time and had to use a rehearsal recording.
I wanted to like it. There were so many places where a bit more spark - "Let's have that again, Rupert, and this time let's hear you really hate the prospect of a Botany walk" - would have made the lines funnier, and maybe even audibly simulated the visual humour of the spelling, punctuation and so on. So many chances, and every one of them missed.
It's a real shame.