Shadows of the Evening
Coward, Noël (aka Sir Noel Peirce Coward, English playwright, composer of popular music, novelist, actor, December 16, 1899-March 26, 1973), “Shadows of the Evening,”
a __-minute stylish drawing room tragicomedy in English in two scenes, set in the sitting room of a private suite at the Hotel Beau Rivage overlooking the lake of Geneva, Lausanne-Ouchy, Switzerland, an evening in autumn, 1966,
© 1966 by Noël Coward;
• in Noël Coward’s Suite in Three Keys, Doubleday Theater Series (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967);
• also, in Noël Coward’s Shadows of the Evening: A Play in One Act, French’s acting edition (London: New York: [etc.] French ), one of three plays published collectively in his Suite in Three Keys, LCCN 67-97106 r84;
• also, in Noël Coward’s Suite in Three Keys: A Song at Twilight, Shadows of the Evening, Come into the Garden, Maud (London: Heinemann Publishing, 1966), LCCN 66-77975 r852;
• also, in Noël Coward’s Suite in Three Keys: A Song at Twilight, Shadows of the Evening, Come into the Garden, Maud, 1st edition, Doubleday Theater Series (Garden City, New York, Doubleday, 1967), LCCN 67-11022 r973;
• also, in Modern Short Comedies from Broadway and London, edited with an introduction and prefaces to the plays by Stanley Richards (1918-____) (New York: Random House [1970, c1969]), LCCN 77-85627 r95, containing “Black Comedy,” by P. Shaffer, ”Visitor from Mamaroneck,” by N. Simon, ”Losers,” by B. Friel, ”Trevor,” by J. Bowen, ”The Shock of Recognition,” by R. Anderson, ”The Sponge Room,” by K. Waterhouse and W. Hall, ”The Diary of Adam and Eve,” by S. Harnick and J. Bock, ”George’s Room,” by A. Owen, ”Noon,” by T. McNally, ”Bea, Frank, Richie & Joan,” by R. Taylor and J. Bologna, ”Madly in Love, by P. Ableman”;
• also, in Noël Coward’s Plays: Five, introduced by Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, The Master Playwrights (London: Eyre Methuen, Ltd. [since, Routledge, Chapman & Hall], 1983), ISBN 0-413-51730-3, ISBN 0-413-51740-3, 539 pp.;
• script/rights available from Samuel French, Inc., 25 West 45th Street, New York, New York 10010-2751, U.S.A., telephone 212-206-8990, fax 212-206-1429, http://www.samuelfrench.com; or 7623 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90046-2795, U.S.A., telephone 213-876-0570, fax 213-876-6822; or 80 Richmond Street East, Toronto, Ontario M5C 1P1, Canada, telephone 416-363-3536, fax 416-363-1108; or Samuel French, Ltd, 52 Fitzroy Street, London W1P 6JR, England, SF 16083, Samuel French, Inc., 25 West 45th Street, New York, New York 10010-2751, U.S.A., telephone 212-206-8990, fax 212-206-1429; or 7623 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90046-2795, U.S.A., telephone 213-876-0570, fax 213-876-6822; or 80 Richmond Street East, Toronto, Ontario M5C 1P1, Canada, telephone 416-363-3536, fax 416-363-1108; or Samuel French, Ltd, 52 Fitzroy Street, London W1P 6JR, England, SF 21106;
• contact agent Alan Brodie Representation Ltd, 6th Floor, Fairgate House, 78 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1HB, telephone +44 (0) 20 7079 7990, fax +44 (0) 20 7079 7999, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.alanbrodie.com.
• Cited in Play Index, 1983-1987: An Index to 3,964 Plays, edited by Juliette Yaakov (____-____) and John Greenfieldt (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1988), ISSN 0554-3037, LCCN 64-1054, 522 pp.
Felix, a waiter (m), Italian; George Hilgay (m), 53, a tall, wealthy Englishman; Anne Hilgay (f), 50, a tall, distinguished Englishwoman, estranged wife; Linda Savignac (f), a handsome well-dressed (possibly French) woman, mistress of man with three months to live.
(scene i) Linda telephones for Anne, who arrives immediately. In this their first, strained meeting after seven years, Linda says that Anne’s husband, George, will die within nine months, possibly sooner, of melanoma. After exploratory surgery, which found malignancy; George will leave the clinic tomorrow morning. Linda dissolves into tears while telling this but regains composure quickly. Anne, too, is shaken. Linda, as George’s mistress, seeks advice from Anne, the wife, about whether to tell George that the illness is fatal. Anne thinks he should be told. Linda also demands that both women should be civil to each other and supportive of George in the time left. Despite her instincts, Anne accepts this, and Linda serves brandy to mark the bargain. Anne wants more information, so Linda telephones the office of Dr. Pasquier, who can give Anne the pertinent details, and arranges to send Anne there in Linda’s car. They agree to let George take the lead about whether he should be told. Linda refreshes their glasses and urges Anne to reminisce about their former friendship. They met as drivers during World War II at Ismailia when Anne pulled Linda from the Suez Canal, into which Linda’s car had skidded. Their growing laughter stops with the arrival of George, who has simply nipped out of the clinic when nobody was looking and come home by taxi. The telephone rings—the doctor’s return call—but both women disguise it as trivial. George, however, perceives that they know his condition. Dr. Pasquier has been frank with him when pressed, so now they all three know of the short time left. George has thought through his situation and considers himself fortunate. Linda exits to recover lost composure, promising to be right back. George and Anne strive for common ground they have lost when he deserted her. She has taken three lovers to forget him, but she cannot and has learned to cope. He looks forward to returning home to see the house and garden and people there. Momentarily, he feels the chill of death. He ponders his rejection of religion, his refusal “to accept hazy, undefined promises of life after death.” Anne speaks comfortingly and takes his hand. He asks her not to let go. (scene ii) One hour later, at dusk, Linda, in dinner dress, evening wrap, and white gloves, seeks courage to persevere in this charade, and George, in a dinner jacket featuring a red carnation, insists they all must. He will continue with her for their planned two weeks in Capri then go back to Anne. He wants to see his children and look through old trunks in the attic. He reassures his mistress that he still loves her although he still loves his wife, too. Linda, nervous about faltering in their charade, declares her thanks for his love, for giving her a new point of view and something to believe in. Anne enters in dinner dress with an evening coat over her arm. They are all dressed for an outing to a casino in Evian, which lies across Lake Geneva on the French side. When their giddiness fades into embarrassing silences, George rejects any policy of evasion. However, the three back into giddiness again and concentrate on the champagne—until George again brings their focus onto his impending death. He harangues them about trying to protect him; he says going to the casino is the only course of action for the evening. Anne offers to fly immediately to London, but Linda asks her to stay for support now that their giddy charade is over “and everybody has guessed the word.” George says, no, they have guessed incorrectly: the word is not death but life. He wants them to divorce their emotions from him these next months and be themselves. Anne bursts into tears. The other two comfort her with a cigarette and brandy. George and Anne decide that she will tell the children about their father’s illness. Linda and Anne discover a mutual admiration. Harking back to the subject or religion, George explains his respecting Linda’s need for Catholicism and Anne’s for Church of England rectitude, but he defends his own agnosticism. The steamer siren announces the boat’s imminent departure for the casino in Evian. George, suavely opening the doors for Linda and Anne, says, “We all have our passports. Mine is still valid for quite a while.”
“Estranged wife and mistress of man with three months to live meet for first time.”—Yaakov and Greenfieldt, p. 82.
“. . . [We] observe the meeting, after seven years, of a publisher’s separated wife and his mistress. It is a most difficult meeting for each of them, but they now have a common cause: the man they both love have but three months to live. They try to act comradely, but he will have none of that. Assuming there is no life after death, he says he wants to live out his months with things exactly as they were—including a caustic antagonism between the women.”—1997 Basic Catalogue of Plays and Musicals (New York; London; Hollywood, California, U.S.A.; Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Samuel French, Inc., 1996), p. 35.
• The high-comedic interplay of ideas balances cleverly with this drama of death. The actors with the director must achieve Cowardesque sophistication to evoke this delicate balance. The role of Linda requires an impeccable French accent.
• This play premiered in a production by H. M. Tennent Ltd, at the Queen’s Theatre, London, April 25, 1966.
• Toward the end are several extended speeches useful for audition material.
• “Sir Noel Peirce Coward . . . was an English actor, playwright, and composer of popular music. His forename is sometimes spelled with a diaeresis on the 'e' (Noël), but Coward himself used this spelling only in later life.  Born in Teddington, Middlesex to a middle-class family, he began performing in the West End at an early age. He was a childhood friend of Hermione Gingold, whose mother warned her against him. A student at the Italia Conti Academy stage school, Coward’s first professional engagement was on 27 January 1911, in the children’s play, The Goldfish. After this appearance, he was sought after for children’s roles by other professional theatres. At the age of fourteen he was the lover of Philip Streatfeild, a society painter who took him in and introduced him to high society, in the form of Mrs. Astley Cooper, before his untimely death due to disease during WWI. Cooper had him live on her property in Rutland, not in the Hall but on the farm, due to his lower social class. He was featured in several productions with Sir Charles Hawtrey, a Victorian actor and comedian, whom Coward idolized and to whom he virtually apprenticed himself until he was twenty. It was from Hawtrey that Coward learned comic acting techniques and playwriting. He was drafted briefly into the British Army during World War I but was discharged due to ill health. Coward appeared in the D. W. Griffith film Hearts of the World (1918) in an uncredited role. He found his voice and began writing plays that he and his friends could star in while at the same time writing revues. He starred in one of his first full-length plays, the inheritance comedy I'll Leave It To You, in 1920 at the age of twenty. After enjoying some moderate success with the Shaw-esque The Young Idea in 1923, the controversy surrounding his play The Vortex (1924) — which contains many veiled references to both drug abuse and homosexuality — made him an overnight sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Coward followed this success with three more major hits, Hay Fever, Fallen Angels (both 1925) and Easy Virtue (1926). Much of Coward's best work came in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Enormous (and enormously popular) productions such as the full-length operetta Bitter Sweet (1929) and Cavalcade (1931), a huge extravaganza requiring a very large cast, gargantuan sets and an exceedingly complex hydraulic stage, were interspersed with finely-wrought comedies such as Private Lives (1930), in which Coward himself starred alongside his most famous stage partner Gertrude Lawrence, and the black comedy Design for Living (1932), written for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Coward again partnered Lawrence in Tonight at 8:30 (1936), an ambitious cycle of ten different short plays which were randomly "shuffled" to make up a different playbill of three plays each night. One of these short plays, 'Still Life,' was later expanded into the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter. He was also a prolific writer of popular songs, and a lucrative recording contract with HMV allowed him to release a number of recordings which have been extensively reissued on CD. Coward's most popular hits include the romantic, 'I'll See You Again' and 'Dear Little Cafe,' as well as the comic 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen,' 'The Stately Homes of England' and '(Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage) Mrs Worthington'. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 saw Coward working harder than ever. When the second World War started, Noel had only just left Paris. He took time off from writing to perform for the troops, but after was eager to return. Alongside his highly-publicised tours entertaining Allied troops, Coward was also engaged by the British Secret Service MI5 to conduct intelligence work. He was often frustrated by criticism he faced for his ostensibly glamorous lifestyle; criticised for apparently living the high life while his countrymen suffered, he was unable to defend himself by revealing details of his work for the Secret Service. Had the Germans invaded Britain, Noel Coward would have been arrested and liquidated as he was on The Black Book, along with other public figures such as H. G. Wells (Wells was targeted for his socialist views). While some feel that this may have been due to his homosexuality, recent documents have surfaced showing Coward to have been a covert operative in HMSS, as well. He also wrote and released some extraordinarily popular songs during the war (the most famous of which are 'London Pride' and 'Don't Let's Be Beastly To The Germans'). He complained to his frequent painting companion, Winston Churchill, that he felt he wasn't doing enough to support the war effort. Churchill suggested he make a movie based on the career of Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten. The result was a naval film drama, In Which We Serve, which Coward wrote, starred in, composed the music for and co-directed with David Lean. The film was immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic and Coward was awarded an honorary Oscar. The 1940s also saw Coward write some of his best plays. The social commentary of This Happy Breed and the intricate semi-autobiographical comedy-drama Present Laughter (both 1939) were later combined with the hugely successful black comedy Blithe Spirit (1941) to form a West End triple-bill in which Coward starred in all three simultaneous productions. Blithe Spirit went on to break box-office records for a West End comedy not beaten until the 1970s, and was made into a film directed by David Lean. Coward's popularity as a playwright declined sharply in the 1950s, with plays such as Quadrille, Relative Values, Nude with Violin and South Sea Bubble all failing to find much favour with critics or audiences. Despite this, he still managed to maintain a high public profile, continuing to write (and occasionally star in) moderately successful West End plays and musicals, performing an acclaimed solo cabaret act in Las Vegas (recorded for posterity and still available on CD), and starring in films such as Bunny Lake Is Missing, Around the World in 80 Days, Our Man in Havana, Boom!, and The Italian Job. After starring in a number of American TV specials in the late 50s alongside Mary Martin, Coward left the UK for tax reasons in the late 1950s and moved to the Caribbean, settling first in Bermuda and then in Jamaica, where he remained for the rest of his life. His play Waiting in the Wings (1960), set in a rest home for retired actresses, marked a turning-point in his popularity, gaining plaudits from critics who likened it to the work of Anton Chekhov. The late 1960s saw a revival in his popularity, with several new productions of his 1920s plays and a number of revues celebrating his music; Coward himself dubbed this comeback "Dad's Renaissance". Coward's final stage work was a trilogy of plays set in a hotel penthouse suite, with him taking the lead roles in all three, under the collective title of Suite in Three Keys (1966); the plays gained excellent reviews and did good box office business in the UK. Coward intended to star in Suite in Three Keys on Broadway but was unable to travel due to illness; the lead roles in the plays in New York were eventually taken by Hume Cronyn. Only two of the plays were performed, with the title changed to Noel Coward in Two Keys. By now suffering from severe arthritis and bouts of memory loss (which affected his work on The Italian Job), Coward retired from the theatre. He was knighted in 1970, and died in Jamaica in March 1973 of natural causes at the age of 73. He is buried in Firefly Hill, Jamaica. As well as over fifty published plays and many albums' worth of original songs, Coward also wrote comic revues, poetry, several volumes of short stories, a novel (Pomp and Circumstance, 1960), and three volumes of autobiography. Books of his song lyrics, diaries and letters have also been published. He was also a spirited painter, and a volume containing reproductions of some of his artwork has also been published. As a homosexual man, Coward never married, but he maintained close personal friendships with many women. These included actress and author Esmé Wynne-Tyson, his first collaborator and constant correspondent; the designer and lifelong friend Gladys Calthrop; secretary and close confidante Lorn Loraine; his muse, the gifted musical actress Gertrude Lawrence; actress Joyce Carey; and (in the words of Cole Lesley) 'his loyal and lifelong amité amourese' film star Marlene Dietrich. He was also a valued friend of Vivien Leigh, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. He enjoyed a lengthy relationship with the stage and film actor, Graham Payn, for almost thirty years until the end of Coward's life. Payn later co-edited (with Sheridan Morley) the collection of his diaries, published in 1982. He was also connected to composer Ned Rorem with details of their relationship published in Rorem's diaries. Coward refused to acknowledge his homosexuality, wryly stating, "There is still a woman in Paddington Square who wants to marry me, and I don't want to disappoint her." He served as the president of The Actors' Orphanage, an orphanage supported by the theatrical industry. In that capacity he befriended the young Peter Collinson, who was in the care of the orphanage, eventually becoming Collinson's godfather and helping him get started in show business. When Collinson was a successful director he invited Coward to play a role in the film The Italian Job; Graham Payn also played a small role. Coward was a neighbour of James Bond creator Ian Fleming in Jamaica, and his wife Anne, the former Lady Rothermere. Though he was very fond of both of them, the Flemings' marriage was not a happy one, and Noel eventually tired of their constant bickering, as recorded in his diaries. When the first film adaptation of a James Bond novel, Dr. No was being produced, Coward was approached for the role of the villain. He is said to have responded, "Doctor No? No. No. No." When speaking to Peter O'Toole about his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, he said "If you'd been any prettier, it would have been 'Florence of Arabia'." The Papers of Noel Coward are held at the University of Birmingham Special Collections. The story of Coward's meeting with actress Jean Harlow is frequently repeated: Harlow gushed, 'No-el Coward! I've heard so much about you!' He could have replied. "It's not true," but he didn't. He replied, rather: "The 'e' in 'Noel' is silent, as is the "t" in "Harlow."[verification needed] On the BBC Midweek programme on the 11th October 2006, Hunter Davies revealed that Coward had told him during an interview that he liked to attend and watch hospital operations in his spare time; apparently when Mr Davies started to push this line further Coward clammed up on the subject and wouldn't elaborate.”—Noel Coward - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_Coward, accessed January 13, 2007.
• Not to be confused with Plays: Five / Euripides, introduced by J. Michael Walton and Kenneth McLeish (London: Methuen Drama; Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Distributed in the U.S. by Heinemann Publishing, 1997), LCCN 98194780, 155 pp.
agnosticism, champagne, Cowardesque, death, desertion, estrangement, family, fidelity, first encounter, friendship, illness, marriage, melanoma, menage a trois, rejection of religion, surgery.
Other Plays by Noël Coward