P’tang yang Kipperbang

This was one of the earliest films shown on Channel 4. It was broadcast on the channel’s 2nd evening on 3rd November 1982 as part of the “First Love” series – please bear with me!

At the centre of the story is 14 year old Alan Duckworth or “Quack Quack” to his friends that has 2 loves in his life, one of which is cricket. The film is shot during the Summer of 1948 at his Grammar school during an Ashes series and the film’s entire narration is by John Arlott which adds so much to the feel of the film.

The other love of Quack Quack’s life is classmate Ann Lawton though she is completely unaware of this as she only has eyes for the school swot Geoffrey Whitaker and probably doesn’t even know that Quack Quack exists. The title is the greeting used by Quack Quack and his 2 friends and, to reflect the time, they throw some schoolboy Latin in to conversations, for example, ordering skate & chips, haddock & chips and plaice & chips with all the chips in one bag by asking for “chippenus lumptum”. As I said, it was based in a grammar school during the late 40’s.

Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash

I digress.

Quack Quack is suffering. His silent crush on Ann is getting worse so he is not eating or sleeping and in order to stop himself doing what young boys do, he goes to bed wearing boxing gloves. He prays every night and every morning for an English victory in the Ashes as well as for the chance to kiss Ann. He doesn’t want to do the other stuff – well he does but for him, the ultimate sign of love is to kiss.

His main friend is Tommy the school’s groundsman. Recently back from the war, Quack Quack goes to great lengths to explain what a wonderful future Tommy fought for and why there will never be any war again as the UN will simply vote against it. Yes, I know….

Day after day, Quack Quack is late to school and receives the cane, he’s not daft, just a bit immature and in a constant daze thinking about cricket and Ann Lawton. The English teacher is so pleased with the classwork and behaviour of Ann and Geoffrey that she chooses them to be in the school play, Geoffrey to play a rich landowner and Ann, his fiancée.

Quack Quack is late to lessons again and is hauled out of PT to receive the cane from the head. He receives a ‘sargeant’ and is told no rubbing and only within reason in front of female staff. The English teacher, brilliantly played by Alison Steadman, is at her wits end with Quack Quack so casts him in the play as an Alvis coupe driving diamond thief that also steals the heart of every woman he meets.

Whilst playing cricket after school, his friends are reading the script and tell him that at the end of the play, he has to kiss the character played by Ann. “They can’t make me” says Alan with a huge grin across his face and later, he prays again thanking God for moving in such mysterious ways – his dream is about to come true!

Many abbreviated rehearsals later, they still haven’t got to the part where he kisses her and his frustration is growing however the day of the play arrives.

I will not spoil the ending however what is interesting is how the story starts with Quack Quack being particularly immature and Ann being very grown up. At the end of the film, the two are reversed. Ann is shown for the young girl that she really is and Quack Quack has suddenly grown up to be a thoughtful and considerate young man. For me, the real star is John Arlott as he really makes this compulsive viewing by displaying the analogies between cricket and life.

There’s also a sub plot involving Tommy the groundsman and the English teacher, the culmination of which greatly affects Quack Quack and plays its part in his sudden maturation.

This is certainly a warm and funny coming of age film and though a million miles from what I usually watch, I really do recommend it and I still watch it to this day.

© RatCatcher 2023