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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Theatrical temptations

Friday, November 10th., London.

After cogitating off and on through the night I decided upon what will probably be the first sentence of my novel (Anna Tellwright): "Bursley, the ancient home of the potter, has an antiquity of a thousand years" - and also upon the arrangement of the first long paragraph describing the Potteries.
This evening, at his request, I called to "have a chat" with Cyril Maude at the Haymarket Theatre.

Cyril Maude was born in London on April 24, 1862. His long and distinguished career as actor and theatre manager continued for some seventy years. He and Winifred Emery, whom he married, were amongst the highest regarded English stage personalities during much of the Golden Age. Although she trained as a classical actor and he was a popular comic character actor, they often acted together in the period 1894-1905. From 1896-1905, Cyril Maude was, with Frederick Harrison, the joint manger of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, where, each season, he presented an extremely popular and successful mix of a comedies, costume dramas and the occasional classic, in most of which he starred, sometimes with Winifred Emery. Later, he took a company on tour, visiting the USA in 1913 and Australia and New Zealand in 1917. In the 1920s he continued to appear in light comedies, and when, in 1926, he toured the United States in These Charming People, he was billed as ‘England’s Greatest Comedian’. In the 1930s, he was in half a dozen films, including starring in Grumpy (1930), a film version of the play he had presented in the United States during his 1913 tour. On April 24, 1942, a special performance of The School for Scandal, with Vivien Leigh playing Lady Teazle, was presented at the Haymarket Theatre to honour Cyril Maude on his 80th birthday. But his career was not over. In 1947, he appeared – at the age of 85 – as the Old Admiral in the film While the Sun Shines.

I saw him in his dressing room, a small place with the walls all sketched over by popular artists. Round the room was a dado-border of prints of Nicholson's animal drawings. Although the curtain would not rise for over half an hour Maude was made up and dressed. He was very kind and good-natured about my one act play "The Stepmother", without overflowing into that gush which nearly all actors give off on all occasions of politeness.
The Stepmother (Synopsis)
Cora Prout popular novelist has shot to fame as a writer of medical fiction. She wows her readers with seamy descriptions of the personal liaisons and intrigues between doctors and nurses in her hospital romances. Her secretary, Christine, copes efficiently with her voluminous output while secretly wishing she could see more of Adrian the son of Cora's late husband. Adrian has been banished from the house because Cora thinks that he is distracting Christine from her work. The literary critics however find that Cora's style, grammar and accuracy about medical facts leave a lot to be desired. The reviews of her latest novel are not flattering. Indeed you could say that one particular anonymous critic has really got it in for Cora. But it seems that she has an admirer in Dr Gardner who lives in the flat below. While affecting an air of contempt for her merciless newspaper critic, Cora would love to find out who it is, and suspects that one of her immediate circle must know more than they are telling.

He said that he and Harrison would certainly consider seriously any 3 or 4 act play of mine. He advised me against doing any more curtain-raisers. He suggested that any man , not perfectly familiar with the stage, who wished to write a play, should study Dumas and - Boucicault.
Speaking of Phillpotts, he asked me if he was doing well.
"Very well indeed for a novelist," I said, "but a novelist never makes much money compared with you folks."
"Except", interrupted Maude, "when he writes a good play. I have a vivid recollection of sending Barrie a cheque for over £1000 for the first six weeks of the provincial tour of 'The Little Minister'.
As I was leaving he said: "Shall you begin the play at once?"
"I can't," I said; "I've too much on hand, but I shall do it within a year from now. Good-bye."
"And let us see it?" he called out anxiously. If it was acting it was incredibly fine acting. If it wasn't, he is really anxious to consider a piece of mine.
"Rather!" I replied, "I should think so after your kindness."

A THESIS IN THEATRE ARTS Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Texas Tech University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS.

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