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P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982)

Courtesy of Goldcrest Films International Ltd

Main image of P'tang, Yang, Kipperbang (1982)
Goldcrest Films & Television for Channel 4, tx. 3/11/1982
80 minutes, colour
DirectorMichael Apted
Executive ProducerDavid Puttnam
ProducerChris Griffin
ScriptJack Rosenthal

Cast: John Albasiny (Alan Duckworth); Abigail Cruttenden (Ann); Maurice Dee (Geoffrey); Alison Steadman (Estelle Land); Mark Brailsford (Abbo)

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14-year-old Alan Duckworth dreams of kissing classmate Ann, but soon realises that life seldom lives up to one's dreams.

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The David Puttnam-produced First Love series (1982) generated a useful supply of stories for the newly launched Channel 4, all on the theme of young romance. Goldcrest, with Channel 4, supplied the majority of financing, encouraged by the promise of cable TV sales to the United States. The first film in the series, 'P'Tang, Yang, Kipperbang', is a nostalgic story of adolescent love in the late 1940s, written by the celebrated Jack Rosenthal and drawing on his childhood memories. Transmitted on Channel 4's second night (tx. 3/11/1982) to enthusiastic reviews, it follows schoolboy Alan Duckworth as he dreams of England winning the Ashes and of kissing beautiful classmate Ann. When Alan discovers he will star opposite Ann in the school play, he is filled with hope, but soon finds life is full of disappointment.

'P'Tang, Yang, Kipperbang' (the title stems from an invented expression which the boys use as a coded greeting and catchphrase) is a humorous drama, faithfully representing a postwar schoolboy's existence. There are some fine performances, particularly from Alison Steadman as a frustrated, strict schoolteacher, and the young players admirably convey the confusion, naivety, and sweaty palmed awkwardness of adolescence. The film leans towards sentimentality, however, and the coming-of-age message, suggesting inevitable disillusionment with one's dreams, seems more depressing than poignant. The device of John Arlot's voiceover cricket commentary, reflecting Alan's hopes and moods, feels contrived, despite the suggestion of adolescent imagination. In 'Those Glory Glory Days' (tx. 17/11/1983) - another film in the First Love series, featuring a football-obsessed schoolgirl - the sporting references are central to the plot; here, however, they are mainly used as thematic reinforcement. This can have the unfortunate effect of spelling out what the viewer already knows, and only adds to a sense of superficial whimsy.

For all that, there are many praiseworthy comic moments, and the film commendably depicts a school's eccentricities. The classroom and rehearsal scenes are well observed, and the late 1940s setting successfully captured, with plenty of engaging period detail. When the film was finally released in cinemas (after its television appearance), critics, perhaps unsurprisingly, found it had suffered in translation to the big screen. Nevertheless, it proved a fitting start to the First Love series, and remains a genial and perceptive portrait of the trials and tribulations of young love.

David Morrison

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Video Clips
Production stills
Those Glory Glory Days (1983)
Apted, Michael (1941-)
Puttnam, Lord David (1941-)
Rosenthal, Jack (1931-2004)
Channel 4 Drama
Channel 4 at 25