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Arts
Theatre

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Plays
The Importance of Being Earnest
Plays: Details
People
Characters and Roles
Terms and Expressions
Theatres (etc.)
The Aldwych Farces
The Whitehall Farces
Other

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Theatre

See also Playwrights.

Plays (etc.)

Shaw play: takes its title from the opening words of Virgil's Aeneid (in translation!) – Latin: Arma virumque cano Click to show or hide the answer
Flanders & Swann's famous 1960s comedy revue: included the songs A Transport of Delight, A Gnu, and The Hippopotamus (Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud) Click to show or hide the answer
Sequel to the above: included the songs The Gasman Cometh and Ill Wind – the latter set to an arrangement of the finale of Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4 in E♭ Major Click to show or hide the answer
Revue that launched the careers of Peter Cooke, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett Click to show or hide the answer
Harold Pinter's first major commercial success (1960): set entirely in one room, features just three characters (Aston, Mick and Davies) Click to show or hide the answer
David Hare's 1998 adaptation of Der Reigen (more usually known in the French translation La Ronde), for which its author Arthur Schnitzler was prosecuted for obscenity following its first performance in 1921 (he hadn't originally intended it to be performed publicly) – see Nicole Kidman Click to show or hide the answer
Play by Tennessee Williams: explores the interaction between Maggie Pollitt and the family of her husband Brick – including his father, "the Delta's biggest cotton–planter", known as Big Daddy – over the course of one evening on the family estate in Mississippi Click to show or hide the answer
West End play (by Simon Gray) that Stephen Fry walked out of in 1995 Click to show or hide the answer
Farce by Brandon Thomas, first performed 21 Dec 1892 Click to show or hide the answer
1980 play by Mark Medoff, about the relationship between a deaf student and her teacher – Trevor Eve starred as the teacher in the London production Click to show or hide the answer
Arthur Miller's 1953 version of the Salem witch trials of 1692–3: opens with the Reverend Samuel Paris watching over his sick 10–year–old daughter Betty; the strong–willed farmer John Proctor, and Abigail Williams, his wife's maid, are the main protagonist and antagonist Click to show or hide the answer
Two–part West End stage play written by Jack Thorne, based on an original new story by Thorne, J. K. Rowling, and John Tiffany; opened summer 2016; the eighth story in the 'Wizarding World universe', set mainly in the year 2021; the story begins in 2017, 19 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and features Harry, now working at the Ministry of Magic, and his younger son Albus Severus Potter; title is Harry Potter and the ... Click to show or hide the answer
1897 play by Edmond Rostand, based on the life of a 17th–century French dramatist, but greatly embellished; the title character feels himself unable to express his love for his distant cousin, the beautiful Roxane, because of his extremely large nose Click to show or hide the answer
Willy Loman is the central character of (Arthur Miller, 1949) Click to show or hide the answer
Written by Ronald Harwood, based on his experiences working for the actor–manager Sir Donald Wolfit (who is not named in the play); first produced 1980; 1983 film version starred Tom Courtenay as Norman (the title character) and Albert Finney as 'sir' (the Wolfit character), both of whom were nominated for Oscars Click to show or hide the answer
Play (premiered 1957) by Samuel Beckett: features Hamm, who is blind and cannot stand up; Clov, his servant, who cannot sit down; Nagg and Nell, Hamm's father and mother, who have no legs and live in adjacent dustbins Click to show or hide the answer
Peter Shaffer, 1973: about a psychiatrist (Martin Dysart) who attempts to treat a young man (Alan Strang) with a pathological fascination with horses. Daniel Radcliffe caused a sensation in 2007 by appearing nude in it on the West End stage Click to show or hide the answer
Written in 1923 (after a night spent stranded at Mangotsfield Station, near Bristol) by Arnold Ridley, who later starred as Private Godfrey in Dad's Army; ran for two years in the West End; filmed at least three times, including a 1941 version starring Arthur Askey; preceded the fairground ride of the same name, which first opened at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1930 Click to show or hide the answer
Tennessee Williams's first successful play – premiered in Chicago in 1944: featuring only four characters (Amanda Wingfield, her grown–up children Tom and Laura, and Tom's friend Jim O'Connor) – Tom and Amanda are said to be based on the author and his mother Click to show or hide the answer
The first English tragedy: by Sackville & Norton, first performed 19 Jan 1561 Click to show or hide the answer
1951 play by John Van Druten, based on Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories – inspired the musical Cabaret Click to show or hide the answer
A Trivial Comedy for Serious People: subtitle of (Oscar Wilde play) Click to show or hide the answer
Play by Marlow: title character is called Barabas Click to show or hide the answer
Jimmy and Alison Porter, Cliff Lewis, Helena Charles and Colonel Redfern (Alison's father) are the main characters in Click to show or hide the answer
GBS play: actor/producer Arnold Daly tried and acquitted for disorderly conduct (New York, 1905) Click to show or hide the answer
Collective title of Alan Ayckbourn's Round and Round the Garden (1963), Living Together (1973) and Table Manners (1973) Click to show or hide the answer
Named after a French observation concerning an attractive posterior Click to show or hide the answer
Noel Coward play that includes the line "Very flat, Norfolk" Click to show or hide the answer
Play by J. M. Barrie, first produced 1901: gave its name to a popular confectionery brand Click to show or hide the answer
Play by Bertolt Brecht, first produced 1958: a satirical allegory of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany prior to World War II Click to show or hide the answer
Play by Tennessee Williams: received a 30–minute ovation on its opening night, on Broadway in 1947; main characters are Blanche DuBois, Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell, Stanley Kowalski and Stella Kowalski Click to show or hide the answer
Olga, Masha and Irina Prozorov are the title characters of (play by Chekhov) Click to show or hide the answer
Ivan Petrovich Voynitsky is the title character of (play by Chekhov) Click to show or hide the answer
Play by Terence Rattigan, based on a real incident involving George Archer–Shee Click to show or hide the answer
London Palladium talent show at which Ernie Wise was discovered Click to show or hide the answer

The Importance of Being Earnest

The central character: lives the life of a libertine called Ernest, while in London; was found in a handbag at Victoria station, and named after the town to which the finder was travelling Click to show or hide the answer
Jack's ward, for whose benefit he assumes a serious attitude when in the country (pretending that Ernest is his brother) Click to show or hide the answer
Jack's best friend, who pretends to be Ernest when he visits Jack in the country, gets engaged to Cicely – and turns out to be Jack's younger brother Click to show or hide the answer
Cicely's governess – who turns out to be the person who left the baby Jack in the handbag at Victoria station Click to show or hide the answer
The rector at Woolton (location of Jack's country house) Click to show or hide the answer
Algernon's cousin, who eventually gets engaged to Jack despite her aunt's disapproval (although she is dying to meet Ernest) Click to show or hide the answer
Gwendolen's formidable aunt, who expressly forbids her engagement after finding out that Jack was found in a handbag as a baby (speaks the famous line "A handbag!") Click to show or hide the answer
Algernon's imaginary friend in the country, whom (rather like Jack and Ernest) he pretends to be when he is there Click to show or hide the answer
Prepared for Lady Bracknell's visit, but eaten by Algernon before she arrives Click to show or hide the answer

Plays: Details

Travelling concert party in The Good Companions (J. B. Priestley) Click to show or hide the answer
Name of the butler, in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan (he has to say "Yes, Milady" quite a lot) Click to show or hide the answer
Mrs. Warren's profession (in the play of that title by George Bernard Shaw) was Click to show or hide the answer
Major Barbara (GBS): Barbara Undershaft is a Major in the Click to show or hide the answer

People

The original Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady Click to show or hide the answer
Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, 1972–2009; all but four of his 73 plays (to date) were premiered there Click to show or hide the answer
Rescued and rebuilt Sadlers Wells Theatre, Islington (opened 1933); established the Vic–Wells Opera Company, which became English National Opera and the Royal Ballet; managed the Old Vic from 1912 until her death in 1937 (aged 63) Click to show or hide the answer
Created the role of Maggie "the Cat" Pollitt in Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Broadway, 1955) – later starred in Dallas Click to show or hide the answer
Breakthrough role, on stage (Broadway, 1947) and on film (1951), was as the rough, working–class Polish–American anti–hero Stanley Kowalski, in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire Click to show or hide the answer
Played Hamlet in Broadway's most commercially successful Shakespeare production, 1964. Asked by Olivier, 1962: "Make up your mind – do you want to be an actor or a household name?" Replied "Both" Click to show or hide the answer
Builder of the Savoy Theatre, producer of Gilbert & Sullivan operas there; founder of an eponymous production company Click to show or hide the answer
Scottish singer: with three Top 20 hits behind her, made her stage debut in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers in 1982; later appeared in TV series including Band of Gold Click to show or hide the answer
Starred in the original London production of Barnum (1981); created the title role in Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, in the West End (1986) and on Broadway (1988); starred as the Wizard of Oz in the original West End production of the Lloyd Webber–Rice musical, for its first 12 months (2011–12) Click to show or hide the answer
Jesus in Godspell (London stage), Che Guevara in the original (London) stage production of Evita Click to show or hide the answer
Chosen to play Maria in Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of The Sound of Music, 2006, in the reality TV programme How do you solve a problem like Maria? Click to show or hide the answer
Replaced Olivier as Director of the National Theatre in 1973 Click to show or hide the answer
Played C. S. Lewis in the stage production of Shadowlands Click to show or hide the answer
First actor to be knighted; famous for his role in the melodrama The bells Click to show or hide the answer
Created the role of 'Big Daddy' Pollitt in Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Broadway, 1955); also played the role in the 1958 film Click to show or hide the answer
Famous architect (1573–1652) who designed the sets for Ben Johnson's royal masques Click to show or hide the answer
Dublin–born founder of the Bluebell Girls Click to show or hide the answer
Appeared nude (briefly) in the West End and on Broadway, in 1998, in David Hare's The Blue Room – which critic Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph famously described as "pure theatrical Viagra" Click to show or hide the answer
Director of many vigorous productions at the Theatre Royal, Stratford (London), 1950–75; artistic director of Theatre Workshop, following its move there in 1953 Click to show or hide the answer
Shot to fame understudying Carol Haney in The pyjama game on Broadway Click to show or hide the answer
West End impresario: hits include Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Oliver!, Miss Saigon, Cats; less successful productions include Moby Dick (1993) and Martin Guerre (1996 – relaunched in 1997 after a £500,000 revamp); knighted in 1996 Click to show or hide the answer
Bip (white face, dressed all in white, tall black hat with flower) Click to show or hide the answer
Founder of the Mermaid Theatre, London (1959) Click to show or hide the answer
Artistic director of the RSC, 1968 – ; producer of Nicholas Nickleby and Les Miserables Click to show or hide the answer
First Director of the National Theatre (1963–73); the Society of West End Theatre awards were renamed in his honour in 1984 (5 years before his death) Click to show or hide the answer
Oscar–winning actor, played the title role in Jeffrey Bernard is unwell on stage Click to show or hide the answer
Played Edith Piaf on the London stage, 1993 Click to show or hide the answer
Stage name of Joseph Pujol (1857–1945) – a French Music Hall artiste who farted tunes (the name means "fart maniac") Click to show or hide the answer
Acted under the name of David Baron in the 1950s Click to show or hide the answer
Antony and Cleopatra — Stratford, 1953 Antony Click to show or hide the answer
Cleopatra Click to show or hide the answer
Directed the original production of Look Back in Anger (1956, at the Court Theatre, London); also directed the 1958 film version, starring Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter Click to show or hide the answer
Produced and starred in the Whitehall farces, 1950–66 Click to show or hide the answer
Director of Shakespeare's Vic, from its opening in 1995 to 2005 Click to show or hide the answer
Tony–nominated director and star of Side by side by Sondheim (London and Broadway) Click to show or hide the answer
The original Mr Mistoffelees in Cats (West End, 1981) Click to show or hide the answer
US actor, became artistic director of London's Old Vic theatre 2004 Click to show or hide the answer
Russian actor and director, 1863–1938: created a method of acting using "emotional memory", which has become a byword for the technique of producing realistic characterisations Click to show or hide the answer
Won a Tony in 1948 for the role of Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams's play A Streetcar Named Desire, but had to wait another 42 years for an Oscar Click to show or hide the answer
Noted for Shakespearean roles opposite Henry Irving and correspondence with George Bernard Shaw Click to show or hide the answer
St. Joan: role created by G. B. Shaw for Click to show or hide the answer
Played King Lear from a wheelchair on Broadway after breaking both ankles Click to show or hide the answer
Appeared with Steve Martin in an acclaimed stage production of Waiting for Godot (late 80s) Click to show or hide the answer
First obtained recognition with American Blues Click to show or hide the answer
Broadway impresario – famous for a series of theatrical revues, 1907–31, inspired by the Folies Bergeres of Paris Click to show or hide the answer

The Odd Couple (on Broadway):

Felix Ungar – the neat one Click to show or hide the answer
Oscar Madison – the messy one Click to show or hide the answer
Replaced Matthau as Oscar Click to show or hide the answer

Characters and Roles

Role (in Pygmalion) said to have been created by Shaw for Mrs. Patrick Campbell Click to show or hide the answer
A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams): tells the doctor, in the play's most famous line, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" Click to show or hide the answer
Subject of the play When she danced Click to show or hide the answer
Maureen Lipman performed a one–woman show in the 1980s as a tribute to Click to show or hide the answer
"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?" said (in Marlowe's Dr. Faustus) of Click to show or hide the answer
Phonetics expert in Pygmalion Click to show or hide the answer
Played on the London stage by Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield, David Day Click to show or hide the answer
Ross: play by Terence Rattigan, based on the life of Click to show or hide the answer
Character from Sheridan's play The Rivals, noted for mixing up words Click to show or hide the answer
Insignificance (Terry Johnson): play based on the life of Click to show or hide the answer
Subject of Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons Click to show or hide the answer
Irish washerwoman with a strong line in comic abuse, the creation of Music Hall artiste Arthur Lucan Click to show or hide the answer
Classical character of the Italian commedia dell'arte (17th century), on whom Mr. Punch was based – named after his long nose Click to show or hide the answer
Third–rate music hall artiste in John Osborne's The Entertainer – played on stage and film by Laurence Olivier Click to show or hide the answer
Panto character named after a variety of tea popular in 19th Century Britain Click to show or hide the answer

Theatrical Terms and Expressions

Traditional words of encouragement to an actor going on stage – it being considered bad luck to say "Good luck". Often said to originate with John Wilkes Booth, assassin of Abraham Lincoln, who was a well–known actor; but the phrase is not recorded in English until at least 50 years after the assassination, and there are similar phrases in other languages that long predate Booth Click to show or hide the answer
Male role played by a female actor (actress) Click to show or hide the answer
Name used in "the profession" for when actors burst into uncontrollable fits of giggling (also used in broadcasting) Click to show or hide the answer
Room where cast members rest when not required on stage (also in a TV studio) Click to show or hide the answer
Japanese townsmen's theatre, 18th & 19th centuries, still popular Click to show or hide the answer
A formerly patented brand of theatrical blood – now used generically – named after the street that links the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Gardens (including the Albert Memorial) Click to show or hide the answer
Term coined to describe the British cultural movement of the mid–to–late 1950s, typically depicting working class youth in domestic situations: "angry young men". Authors included John Osborne, Arnold Wesker, Alan Sillitoe, Shelagh Delaney Click to show or hide the answer
Traditional Japanese theatre form: developed in the 14th century, said to be the oldest form of theatre still being performed regularly; its name is a Sino–Japanese word for 'skill' or 'talent' Click to show or hide the answer
Speech introducing a play Click to show or hide the answer
The arch that separates the stage from the auditorium Click to show or hide the answer
Traditional form used when referring to Macbeth – it being considered bad luck to name it out loud Click to show or hide the answer
Speech where a character expresses his or her thoughts aloud, without addressing any other character Click to show or hide the answer
Scruto Click to show or hide the answer
Music Hall in the USA Click to show or hide the answer
Passageway under a bank of seating, allowing the audience to "spew out" at the end of a performance (contrary to some claims, not the name of an area set aside in ancient Rome for actual vomiting) Click to show or hide the answer

Theatres, etc.

London home of the RSC, before the Barbican Centre was built Click to show or hide the answer
Theatre where The Mousetrap opened in 1952 (see St. Martin's) Click to show or hide the answer
1959: London's first new theatre for 200 years Click to show or hide the answer
Lyttelton Theatre, Cottesloe Theatre, Olivier Theatre Click to show or hide the answer
London theatre with the same name as the element with atomic number 46 (originally, in ancient Greece and Rome, an image on which the safety of a city was said to depend) Click to show or hide the answer
London Open Air Theatre, founded 1933 Click to show or hide the answer
Theatre that The Mousetrap moved to in 1974 (from the Ambassadors) Click to show or hide the answer
London theatre, built 1881 by Richard D'Oyly Carte to stage the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, which came to be named after it; first in the world to be lit by electricity Click to show or hide the answer

The Aldwych Farces

The Aldwych Farces were a series of twelve plays that ran at the Aldwych Theatre, in London's West End, from 1923 to 1933. They were presented by the actor–manager Tom Walls, who also starred in them along with Ralph Lynn. Nine of them were written by Ben Travers.

The first play ran for over two years (February 1923 to July 1925) and had 598 performances. The next three ran for approximately one year each, changing in mid–summer; thereafter the changes were more frequent.

Years Author(s)   Title
1923–5Roi Cooper Megrue, Walter Hackett Click to show or hide the answer
1925–6Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1926–7Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1927–8Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1928–9Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1929–30Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1930Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1930–1George Arthurs, Arthur Miller Click to show or hide the answer
1931–2Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1932Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer
1932–3H. F. Maltby Click to show or hide the answer
1933Ben Travers Click to show or hide the answer

The Whitehall Farces

Continuing in the tradition of the Aldwych Farces, the five Whitehall Farces ran at the Whitehall Theatre, in London's West End, from 1950 to 1966. They were presented by the actor–manager Brian Rix.

The first Whitehall Farce ran for almost four years, from 12 September 1950 to 24 July 1954, and had 1610 performances. The fifth ran for less than two years and had approximately 765 performances.

Years Author(s) Title
1950–54Colin Morris Click to show or hide the answer
1954–58John Chapman Click to show or hide the answer
1958–61John Chapman Click to show or hide the answer
1961–64Ray Cooney, Tony Hilton Click to show or hide the answer
1964–66Ray Cooney Click to show or hide the answer

Other

The Mousetrap began its record–breaking West End run in Click to show or hide the answer
Dance troupe at the Folies Bergere, Paris, founded by Dublin–born Margaret Kelly Click to show or hide the answer
Caryll and Mundy, Eddie Gray, Nervo and Knox, Flanagan and Allen Click to show or hide the answer
Eddie Rivers (USA), Royal Cremorne Music Hall, London 1871: the first Click to show or hide the answer
Senior officer of the British royal household, effectively responsible for theatre censorship from 1737 (from 1843, specifically where it was necessary "for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace"); these powers were abolished in 1968 Click to show or hide the answer
Acting company that Shakespeare belonged to Click to show or hide the answer
Hetty King, Vesta Tilley Click to show or hide the answer
Setting of Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire (US city) Click to show or hide the answer
Best Comedy award on the Edinburgh Fringe (sponsorship replaced 2005 by Scottish bank Intelligent Finance – renamed the if.com award) Click to show or hide the answer
Series of comedy shows in aid of Amnesty International, which became known by the title of the third event (1979); the first two were A Poke in the Eye (1976) and The Mermaid Frolics (1977) Click to show or hide the answer
Annual awards presented by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League, for Broadway productions and performances (with other discretionary awards for non–Broadway); full name Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre (after an American actress and director, 1888–1946) Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2017–18