Plays, four

Front Cover
Methuen, 1979 - Drama - 481 pages
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Volume Four of NoŽl Coward's plays contains a selection of Coward's
plays from the thirties and forties which includes Blithe Spirit, a
comedy that centres around the spirit medium Madame Arcati. The play
that mocks sudden death was produced at precisely the moment when bombs
were bringing it to Britain "I shall ever be grateful, for the almost
psychic gift that enabled me to write Blithe Spirit in five days during
one of the darkest years of the war." The play was for years the
longest-running comedy in the history of British theatre. Present
Laughter
follows the life of Garry Essendine, a world-weary,
middle-aged projection of the dilettante, debonair persona -
self-obsessed and dressing-gowned who struts through the play like an
educated peacock. It is a comedy about the 'theatricals' that NoŽl best
knew and loved, and was originally a star vehicle for himself. It is
the closest to an autobiographical play that Coward ever wrote.

This
Happy Breed
is a saga of a lower middle-class family; and three shorter
pieces fromTonight at 8.30 - is a farce set in the South of France,
and serves as an oblique tribute to Frederick Lonsdale; The Astonished
Heart
is about the decay of a psychiatrist's mind through personal
sexual obsession. Red Peppers, which closes the volume, was a cynical
tribute to the lost music halls of the First World War.

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About the author (1979)

NoAl Coward was born in 1899. A professional stage actor from the age of twelve, Coward later created a sensation as a playwright, with titles such as Hay Fever, The Vortex, Private Lives, Cavalcade, Blithe Spirit, and Design For Living. In the forties he was involved in film, with adaptations of Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter, before starting a new career as a cabaret performer in the fifties. A celebrated wit and prodigious theatrical talent, Coward wrote over a hundred works in various different genres. He was knighted in 1970 and died three years later in Jamaica.