Three Seasons of Sadie by Richard Masefield – a comedy set in the 1960s in a seaside town’s theatre

Three Seasons of Sadie by Richard Masefield

Eastbourne in the 1960s was far from an exciting and trendy place for a young man keen to have his first experience of ‘love’, yet it is the setting of Sam’s education in the ways of the world. Sam is nineteen, having finished at an all boys boarding school with some slight experience of dramatic productions, finds himself lodging with an aunt and working in the local theatre. He is lacking in self confidence and knowledge of the world, but he soon meets a group of people who will change everything. This lively comedy is full of memorable characters, from an odious dog called Nanki-Poo to the sublime film star Abigail Compton, and this humorous book describes Sam’s progress during a heady few weeks of secret assignations, suspected deaths, theatrical behaviour and cricket. This very enjoyable book is full of vivid descriptions of life in a repertory theatre as a touring production arrives, and for various reasons challenges emerge to everyone. I found this a most enjoyable book, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

The book begins with a very funny Prologue, in which Sam describes his hapless attempt to shrink his Levi jeans in a bath of hot water. His rescuer is his cousin Mag, and she provides accommodation and a job. Sam has grown up on a farm, and while he loves the family business he is keen to explore the world, or at least the nearest town. To the excitement of many a theatre company is due to perform a production of three one act plays, starring the film star Abigail Compton. She has been out of the public eye for a while, and this production is en route to London, supposedly marking a comeback. To say she is mesmerising is an understatement, and she is at the centre of a company who are organised to show her in the best light. While Abigail is very attractive, she has a daughter who is nearer Sam’s age, and he believes at last he can have a relationship. The humour in this book emerges from his attempts to have a few moments alone with Cordelia, the characters in the company, and Sam’s attempts to discover who is responsible for a series of incidents that threaten to upset every performance. He imagines himself to be a famous foreign detective, and tries to compile a list of suspects. Meanwhile Mag holds her games evening, a cricket match must be played, and as assistant stage manager Sam is in the midst of the mayhem as Abigail keeps the show going on.

The humour in this book ranges from the subtle in jokes of the sixties, theatrical life and Sam’s self confessed attempts to lose his innocence. It is well observed, well written and the plot is carefully constructed in the face of theatrical high jinks. The sense of the time period goes beyond research and succeeds in creating the atmosphere of the sixties in a consistent way. Sam’s voice is a fascinating record of his point of view throughout. This is a really good read which provides a lot of entertainment in a coming of age book with absolutely no sense of self pity. I recommend it as an enjoyable read which is full of humour and insight into the sixties and a young man’s life.