Thursday, 17 February 2011

Fifties Icons

My latest directing project is for a local community group, The Arrowtown Entertainers. One of their number, Dave Dustan, has written a play called Cribbies set in 1959 in Arrowtown. The swinging sixties had not yet arrived and folk arrived in Arrowtown from Invercargill, Dunedin and various places roundabout with the sole intention of relaxing.

They stayed in 'cribs' (baches in the North Island; holiday homes to the English) during their holidays. The kids played down by the river all day, the dads dreamed about building shacks without planning permission, and the mums just dreamed in the warm Central Otago sun. There was apparently no crime or stress, but plenty of socialising and rock 'n' roll (and binge drinking actually, but we'll overlook that for now).

To get myself in the mood for the era, I visited the excellent Lakes District Museum and spoke to the lovely Angela Verry (the exceptionally helpful education officer). She shared her research with me including some fantastic interviews with the original 'cribbies' and some artefacts. You'll recognise the furniture and the decor from your grandma's houses.

The flying ducks on the wall are something of which every collector seems to be proud. They remind me of Vera Duckworth on Coronation Street and were always shorthand for 'completely lacking in class'. A lot of the items such as formica tables, velvet pictures, chrome and vinyl chairs, plastic thermos flasks etc, are utterly ghastly.

Although I realise that everyone's taste is different (although less and less these days as we are all dictated to by the Internet arbitrator - controlled by petulant and precocious teenagers, apparently), I would like to know when does something stop being naff and ugly, and become retro and chic, if ever?