Did you know? Noel Coward and the Northcott Archive
The Northcott has staged many Noel Coward productions over the years. Here are some interesting facts we’ve discovered in our archive:
- There have been 12 productions of Noel Coward’s plays staged by the Northcott Theatre over its 50 year history, including Blithe Spirit in 1999, August 26th to celebrate the centenary of Coward’s birth.
- The production of Design For Living in April 1981 included an elaborate set, hundreds of small props – and a swimming pool.
- In the Autumn 1982, the theatre had hopes to produce Bitter Sweet by Noel Coward, with a lavish set, and had to raise private funding to do so. £10,000 was raised – but the rights reportedly only cost the price of a stamp.
- During the run of Blithe Spirit in 1985, the lead actor Edmunde Kente was attacked in Exeter a few hours before he was due to go on stage! He was hit over the head with a crash helmet. He still performed that night after a trip to the hospital.
- The changing role of the theatre is highlighted by the different reach of the Coward productions over the years – for example, the theatre’s production of Private Lives, 1971 (Opened 25th August) toured regionally to Plymouth, the Nuffield Southampton, Swanage, Falmouth, Ilfracombe etc. By the 80s and 90s the productions were only staged at NT.
- Press coverage around the theatre’s Coward productions highlights the superficial way women actors were viewed. Productions such as Cowardy Custard in 1976 and Blithe Spirit in 1985 were accompanied by many news stories focusing on men involved in the shows discussing artistic process and technical complexities. But the coverage featuring the women included a plethora of articles about how ‘pretty’ ‘rosebud’ Patricia Michael the lead actress in Cowardy Custard was – in Sunday Independent and in local papers. She was from Exeter originally but went on to West End fame. The only press coverage featuring the two lead actresses in Blithe Spirit Rosamund Shelley and Amanda Orton, was a piece in the ‘Women’s World’ column in the Express and Echo – discussing their costumes and what they wore to rehearsals.