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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Indecent exposure?

Friday, April 11th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Richard, Marguerite and I went to Eastbourne last Saturday for the first production of "Judith" (Devonshire Park Theatre).

The genesis of this play was in December last when we had a weekend at Dr. Keeble's at Weybridge. Lillah McCarthy was there. In spite of my neuralgia we had a great weekend, full of good and not too serious conversation. I promised to write Lillah a play on the subject of Judith, if a firm contract was made at once. In fact I constructed the play on the spot, after having read 'Judith' myself and having heard it read by Keeble. I finished the play on January 28th. having written it in twenty-three days. I delivered the play in early February and when I met Lillah McCarthy a few days later she nearly fell on her neck in the street from enthusiasm about it. Eaton also wrote that he was "violently enthusiastic" about it. See also 'Busy in Brighton' - Feb. 17th. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/thursday-february-17th.html>

Lillah Mc Carthy behaved very well at Eastbourne, considering her double anxiety of manager and star, - both as it were making a fresh start in life. Lillah had there Dr. Keeble (her fiance), her mother, her sister, and a niece and nephew offspring of another sister (or brother). All these were all over the theatre all the time. She protested that all the creative producing work had been done by me, M. and her. I had to put this right. Ernest Thesiger, the Bagoas, grew sterner as the hour of performance came nearer. I don't think he smiled on Monday at all. He is really an artist. He gave a magnificent performance.

Ernest Frederic Graham Thesiger, CBE (1879 - 1961) was an English stage and film actor best known for his performance as Dr. Septimus Pretorius in James Whale's film Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

Esme Hubbard (Haggith) remained light and merry throughout, and gave a magnificent performance. Fredk. Volpe (Ingur) behaved rather like Thesiger and was very fine. Scenery & costumes were by Ricketts. Music by Bantock. Both good. Dance arranged by the ballet master of Russian ballet.

Evidently Lillah is used to authors who will stand no damned nonsense. She got rather excited after both 2nd. and 1st, performances because Bagoas's rushing forth and killing a spy woman detracted from her killing Holofernes, and she had to be soothed.

Lillah McCarthy as Judith
But the charm of the play is the nudity of Lillah McCarthy when she assassinated Holofernes (after kissing him) in the tent. Upwards, from a line drawn round the body one inch above the clitoris the lady is absolutely nude except for a black velvet band (4 inches wide) round the body hiding the breasts, & a ditto going down perpendicularly from between the breasts to the skirt & so hiding the navel. Two thin shoulder straps held this contrivance in position. Bracelets and rings of course. The skirt was slit everywhere and showed the legs up to the top of the thigh when she lay down there at Holofernes's feet. She looked a magnificent picture thus. The manager of the theatre had some fear of prosecution. I asked him if he had seen Chu Chin Chow. However, I think Lillah beats anything in Chu Chin Chow. Marguerite wanted the skirt a little higher - not for decency, but for beauty. But Ricketts did not agree with her. Lillah gave an exceedingly fine performance - as good as could be wished for.

The house was very full for the first night. (Capacity about 115-120). I refused the persistent calls for author, and sat with Lillah's maid in Lillah's dressing room until the calls had finished. Terribly silly mishaps occurred with the sack containing Holofernes's head in the 3rd. act, despite the most precise instructions to the crowd. Further instructions to the crowd, and similar mishaps on the 2nd night.
I took supper three nights running and survived it.

More on "Judith" at:

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