The Avenue Hall, Southamptonon
23rd to 26th September 1981
Noel Pierce Coward, English actor, director, composer, and dramatist, was born in Teddington on December 16, 1899. He left school at an early age to begin acting and made his first professional appearance as Prince Mussel in The Goldfish, a fairy play for children, performed at the Little Theatre in London. Thereafter he was steadily employed as a child actor. He joined the army's Artists' Rifles in the winter of 19!8 and was back onstage two years later as Ralph in Francis Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle. I'll Leave it to You (1920), his first produced play, met with some approval, but his first real success came in 1924 with The Vortex, a drama of the post-World War I period. After The Vortex, Coward began to produce the sophisticated comedies and farces that came to be typical of the postwar generation. In 1925 five plays by Noel Coward, including Hay Fever, Fallen Angels, Easy Virtue, and On with the Dance, were running simultaneously in London.
Other triumphs in which Coward combined the talents of actor, singer, composer, lyricist, stage manager, and director were This Year of Grace! (1928), a revue; and Bitter-Sweet (1929), for which he composed some of his most memorable songs. Having achieved financial as well as artistic success, Coward began traveling extensively. It was in Shanghai in 1929 that he wrote the comedy Private Lives, which was produced in London in 1930, starring himself and Gertrude Lawrence. Soon after he wrote Cavalcade (1931); Design for Living (1933), in which he starred with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne; and Tonight at 8.30 (1935-1936). Blithe Spirit, his last big success, was produced in Manchester and London in 1941.
During World War II Coward toured with This Happy Breed (1942). He also produced, codirected, wrote and starred in the motion picture In which we Serve (1943), a tribute to the Royal Navy; made numerous appearances to raise funds and sell government bonds; and entertained Allied troops with his extraordinarily diverse talents. Although Coward continued to write for the theatre after the war, he never again achieved the popularity he enjoyed during the 1920s and 1930s. A three-act play, Waiting in the Wings, was staged in London in 1960. The next year Coward went to the United States to stage Sail Away, an unsuccessful musical for which he wrote the book, lyrics and music.
|Cast (in order of appearance)|
|Sorel Bliss||Elaine Gill|
|Simon Bliss||Peter Pitcher|
|Judith Bliss||Mollie Manns|
|David Bliss||Peter Neve|
|Sandy Tyrell||Brian Stansbridge|
|Myra Arundel||Jan Bradshaw|
|Richard Greatham||Alan Watson|
|Jackie Coryton||Paula Bingham|
|For the Maskers:|
|Directed by||Ken Spencer|
|Stage Manager||Valerie Barwell|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Sue Parkes|
|Properties||Chrissie Evans, Margaret House|
|Wardrobe||Lillian Gunstone, Tamar Thomas|
|Business Management and Publicity||Graham Buchanan, Jenni Watson|
|Programme Design||Brian Stansbridge|