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Coward

Genesis

During the premier production of I Really Must be Getting Off, JMC recounted an anecdote concerning Noël Coward to two young producers he met, JPB productions. This story appears in Philip Hoare's biography and concerns Coward's relationship with a young actor, Bill Traylor, during the American tour of Nude with Violin in the late 1950s, a relationship which had near fatal consequences. JMC quipped that the story would make "a rather good play" - and the producers took him at his word, approaching him with the offer of a commission to write a play involving Coward's relationship with a vulnerable young actor.

JMC accepted the commission, and set to work turning the bald facts of history into a speculative work about the private life of a powerful celebrity. He re-set the story in the mid-1930s, and invented a wholly fictional character, Leonard Marlowe, who is similarly uneasy about Coward's advances but British and looking for work on the West End stage. JMC noted that Coward had helped such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, John Mills and Louis Hayward to the glittering limelight, and supposed that such an offer of assistance would have given any young performer stars in their eyes. The play shows the influences on and consequences of Leonard's decision to get into bed with Noël both professionally and sexually.

Coward was originally conceived as a two-hander, but shortly into the planning process, JMC came to the commissioning producers and suggested that he add a third character, Noël's servant (and later friend and biographer) Cole Lesley. The producers agreed, and the addition of Cole as third character greatly added to the depth and variety of the drama in the play.

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