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Saturday, 22 June 2013

Home from the sea

Monday, June 22nd., Cadogan Square, London.

Marie Marguerite dressed for a birthday
On Saturday I returned from 17 days yachting on the "Marie Marguerite". Not two minutes rain in the whole time. I have a specially fitted desk on the yacht which I use for writing in bad weather, but this time its use has not been necessary. I enjoy every minute of yachting, even when lying sleepless at night. Still, I was thinking about the sociological side of dressing the ship. This job takes the captain and the mate, two highly skilled men, one and a half hours. I don't see how it could be justified economically. It can't. But all important yachting would be similarly unjustifiable. Yet what a real calamity it would be if these magnificent objects called yachts were put out of action! It would be a retrogression of civilisation. Still, I often ask why I allow myself to keep eight men, and very good men, solely to extend my personality and serve my pleasure.

Tonight "The Cherry Orchard" is transferred from the Lyric, Hammersmith, to the Royalty. This I think marks a definite turn in public taste towards true plays. I have been remarking this turn for some years, but managers seem quite blind.

When Fagan produced "The Cherry Orchard" for us at the Lyric, we thought it ought to be done but did not believe in it. On the Thursday after the first performance (Monday) none of us believed in it, and Fagan met the directors and agreed without argument that the thing was a failure. But a few days later he was believing in it (by reason of the enthusiasm of small audiences), but the returns were still awful, and the loss heavy. Then the returns enormously improved. Loss became a profit, and tonight this most disconcerting and original play has come in a sort of triumph to the West End, where no manager would have looked at it a month ago. All this is owing to Nigel Playfair having seen it done at Oxford, and being firmly backed by me in his desire to have it done at the Lyric.

So, it played at the Royalty this evening to a by no means full and rather apathetic and not at all first-night audience. But I was struck still more than ever by the power and beauty of the play.

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