Wah-Wah is a semi-autobiographical ‘coming of age at the end of an age’ story, set during the last gasp of the British Empire in Swaziland, south east Africa in 1969. It focuses on the dysfunctional Compton family whose gradual disintegration mirrors the end of British rule. 11 year-old Ralph Compton witnesses his mother’s adultery with his father’s best friend. His parents get divorced and Ralph is sent to boarding school. Harry Compton not only loses his wife and best friend, but also his position as Minister of Education with the coming Independence, prompting his rapid descent into alcoholism.
Ralph returns home to discover that his father has re-married an American ex-Air hostess called Ruby, whom he has known all of six weeks. As round a peg as you could find in this square society, Ruby cocks a snoot at the petty snobbery, pomp and tatty circumstances of colonial life by identifying colonial-speak as sounding like a load of old ‘Wah-Wah.’ The story is told through Ralph’s eyes as the adults frenziedly prepare an amateur production of ‘Camelot’ to impress Princess Margaret, who is coming out to preside over their Independence. Ralph gets cast, falls in love and discovers a way to escape his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ home life.
Director: Richard E. Grant
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Julie Walters, Miranda Richardson and Nicholas Hoult
The film marked the directorial debut of Richard E. Grant.