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Episode Seven - "Passion Play"

Scheduled for transmission on 1st April 1987 but not shown

In the school canteen (seen for the first time), three dinner ladies are chatting. They are quite filthy and are all smoking.  Not surprisingly, the canteen is in a disgusting condition with grime everywhere. One of the dinner ladies is moaning about her husband when she spots a mouse. She kills it with a ladle and then uses the ladle to stir with, even though part of the mouse's tail is stuck to it.

The local vicar is addressing a class of children, telling them a dreary story about a robin. Down in the assembly hall, Mr Philpott is attempting to organise the school play but failing miserably. The play is to be about the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. None of the children pay Mr Philpott any attention and three of them are using his school bag to play a game of football with. Two other children are climbing up curtains and initially refuse to come down when Mr Philpott orders them to. When one of them does finally come down, he pretends that Mr Philpott has hit him. Calmness is only instilled with the arrival of Ernie, the head caretaker.

In the deputy headmaster's office, Spotty and Slasher are each wearing half of a pantomime horse costume (Spotty is wearing the front half and Slasher is wearing the back half). But both decline to go ahead with playing this role (they are meant to be Jesus's donkey), with Slasher stating he 'doesn't want his head stuck up Spotty's bum'. Likewise, Spotty doesn't want to play the back half either. Mr Mackintosh cannot persuade them. Both Spotty and Slasher complain that Mr Mackintosh had only talked them into this by promising each of them that Donna, the head girl, would be playing the other half of the horse. Eventually, Mr Mackintosh reluctantly offers to take Slasher's place. Horrified at this prospect, Spotty says he will pay Slasher to play the back half and Slasher agrees.

With the pantomime horse costume on, Spotty and Slasher amble out of Mr Mackintosh's office, though they plainly cannot see where they are going. Donna appears and Mr Mackintosh announces that he has got her costume for the school play. He produces some flimsy underwear and dangles it in front of her.

In a corridor, Mr Philpott is moaning to Mr Flashman about the chaos surrounding the production of the school play, which he expects to be a disaster. He adds that Mr Magnusson wants to play Caesar who obviously isn't in the crucifixion story. Later, Mr Flashman is talking to the vicar, who dreamily rambles about buying curtains which he thinks God is recommending to him.
A pantomime horse costume like the one worn by Spotty and Slasher
Mr Fowl, who is playing the role of Jesus, is in a makeshift dressing room which is actually a boys' toilet. He is applying theatrical make-up when he is interrupted by a pupil who wishes to interview him for the school newsletter. Ignoring any questions, Mr Fowl brags about his acting ability, making out he could have been a big theatre star but instead chose teaching as his profession.

The play begins with a replication of the last supper of Jesus, with children dressed in unconvincing period costumes sitting around a long table. Ernie, who is in the audience, instantly begins heckling. The play is in dissarray from the beginning, with the cast constantly forgetting their lines. Miss Crabbe is playing the role of a 'wench'.

Spotty and Slasher, still in their costume, blindly stumble out into the playground as they try to find their way to the stage. Back in the assembly hall, Mr Fowl arrives on stage wearing a wig and a false beard. He overacts appallingly and is distracted by jeers and snide comments. He also slips in a few insults to Miss Crabbe when she appears on the stage.

Off the stage, Mr Flashman directs some of the children who are dressed as Roman soldiers. He appeased Mr Philpott in respect of Mr Magnusson by saying that Mr Magnusson can play Samson. Of course, Samson is not in the crucifixion story either but at least Mr Magnusson has no lines to speak and he will blend in with his costume. However, when Mr Magnusson emerges he is wearing a rather gross caveman outfit and makes out like he is Tarzan. Then Mr Savage turns up wearing a police uniform. When Mr Flashman queries this, Mr Savage replies that he refuses 'to wear tights'.

The vicar is outside the headmaster's office and Mr Wickham opens the door. Smoke fills the air and Mr Wickham frantically attempts to put out a fire, though he doesn't identify who started it or how it started.

At a nearby petrol station, Spotty and Slasher continue stumbling along with no idea where they are going. This is only the second time in the series in which a scene takes place outside of the school grounds.

On the stage, the actual crucifixion is about to unfold and Mr Fowl steps forward. He disrobes and reveals what looks to be a pair of striped pyjamas wrapped around his midsection like a huge diaper. This generates howls of laughter. He is attached to a cross and his wig falls off. Miss Crabbe is about to throw a bucket of water over him when suddenly Mr Philpott bounds onto the stage. He has finally reached breaking point and shouts abuse at Mr Wickham, Mr Mackintosh and the vicar, who are all huddled at the side of the stage. Mr Philpott is about to yell out to the audience that 'the school is a pile of....' when he is interrupted by Mr Magnusson, who swings across the stage suspended on a rope in classic Tarzan style.

At this point the school bell rings and with the play having descended into a worse state of mayhem, the audience begin to disperse. Mr Wickham and Mr Mackintosh rush forward to tackle Mr Philpott before he can say anything damaging. They are about to throttle him while at the same time Miss Crabbe is cutting the rope that holds the cross in a vertical position. Mr Fowl is still attached to the cross and wants to get down. At the rear of the stage, the vicar is admiring the curtains (he was not impressed by the curtains that God apparently recommended to him) when the rope is cut and the cross falls backwards, bopping the vicar on his head.

All the teachers gather around the fallen vicar, wondering what to do. Mr Mackintosh suggests they should 'put him in the piano'. The closing shot is of Spotty and Slasher, who are aimlessly wandering across the playground in their pantomime horse costume.

And so ends the series of "Hardwicke House". Perhaps some viewers may consider the portrayal of the crucifixion story to be somewhat blasphemous but it is depicted in such a farcial, comical way that it just cannot be taken seriously. There is also the notion of Mr Mackintosh giving Donna some underwear to put on, but there is nothing graphic about this and Donna is not seen in the underwear so it is not certain that she even wore it.

Overall, the contents of this episode illustrate only that an 8.30PM time slot is not really suitable. But there is nothing to suggest that it should never be shown on TV at any hour. There have been far more offensive shows televised both before and since "Hardwicke House". In all respects, "Hardwicke House" is pretty tame.

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