The Happy HavenBy John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy
Directed by William Gaskill
The English Stage Company
Royal Court Theatre, London - Opened 14th September 1960
Peter Bowles ... Dr Copperthwaite
Susan Engel ... Mrs Phineus
Rachel Roberts ... Mrs Letouzel
Barrie Ingham ... Mr Golightly
Nicholas Selby ... Mr Hardrader
Frank Finlay ... Mr Crape
James Bolam ... Robinson / Lord Mayor
Edward Fox ... Smith / Sir Frederick Hapgood
Mary Watson ... Nurse Jones / Lady from the Ministry
Rosalind Knight ... Nurse Jones / Lady from the Ministry
The production featured the wearing of masks, influenced by Commedia dell'arte, the young actors played the older characters in mask, whilst Dr Copperthwaite, played by Peter Bowles, was without a mask. The play was neither a critical or commercial success but George Devine was at pains to defend John Arden as a writer citing him as - the second most important writer the Royal Court has produced next to John Osbourne.
At the Happy Haven care home, Dr Copperthwaite is working on a medical miracle: the cure for old age. But between placating the ever-complaining Mr Crape, overseeing the romantic advances of Mr Golightly to the ancient Mrs Phineus, keeping the charity cash box away from the light-fingered Mrs Letouzel and trying to find Mr Hardrader's illicitly kept dog, Dr Copperthwaite's efforts to concoct his youth elixir are constantly interrupted.
A seemingly ill-timed intrusion into the lab by Mr Crape leads to the doctor's discovery of the correct formula for eternal youth. Yet when the five elderly patients find out about Dr Copperthwaite's plans for the Happy Haven community, they're not so sure that they'd like their youth back. A farcical depiction of institutional life, The Happy Haven explores whether it really is better to be forever young or if wisdom does indeed come with age.