Authors: Julius Green
âAgatha has the gift of doing what all women want to do, but only men have the chance. She achieves something. Men climb Everest, race fast cars, invent atom bombs, fight wars, become famous surgeons and man lifeboats. In her heart every woman, too, would like to do these things. But all we can do is dream. It is all we can do. It's a man's world. The only consolation I get is that Agatha kills off a few of you.'
17 January 1954
This book owes its existence to Mathew Prichard, who has always encouraged me in my belief that there is a significant story to be told about his grandmother's work for the theatre, and who generously granted me access to all of her papers so that I could tell it. Mathew and Lucy's boundless hospitality has made every visit to their family archive a delight, and both of them have spent much time and energy assisting me in my endeavours.
I am delighted that David Brawn at HarperCollins shared Mathew's belief that this book should be written, and am hugely grateful for his support and guidance throughout the process, and particularly for his good humour when he was presented with a volume that was two and a half times the length of the one he had contracted. My editor, Steve Gove, has approached the task with a diligent attention to detail that I have greatly valued. William Collins first published Agatha Christie in 1926, and it is a privilege to be working with her publisher to produce a book in her 125th anniversary year.
Agatha Christie Ltd, the company that continues skilfully to mastermind the global distribution of Christie's work in all media, has been another significant partner in this book's realisation, and I am grateful to managing director Hilary Strong and her team for facilitating my work and for enabling my literary endeavours happily to coexist alongside my continued business dealings with the company as a theatre producer.
Numerous individuals have assisted me in the preparation of this book, but none more generously than Dr John Curran, the acknowledged leading authority on Christie's work. He has kindly and unselfishly made available to me unused material from his detailed research on Christie's notebooks, and has been an invaluable guide when my own research has entered uncharted territories. Although we approach our work from very different angles, John is a valued colleague; we enjoy both applauding and shooting down each other's theories as each new discovery about this extraordinary writer's work comes to light.
I have been particularly fortunate in being the first researcher to have been granted access to the extensive business papers of Agatha Christie's friend and colleague Sir Peter Saunders, who produced most of her theatrical successes, and I am grateful to their owner, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, for his generosity in allowing me to access them in the midst of his busy theatrical production office, and to Jane Tichband and her colleagues for their patience and good humour in facilitating this. Sir Stephen also kindly agreed to be interviewed about
, as did the play's longest-serving resident director, David Turner, and they both gave me valuable insights into the production's history and the care and diligence with which it continues to be nurtured. Nick Salmon, Rupert Rhymes and Diana Rawstron very kindly approved my quotation of Saunders' correspondence.
Of the many archivists who have helped me to access original material relating to Agatha Christie's theatre work, Joe Keogh at the Christie Archive Trust and Gemma Poulton at Exeter University have been tireless in their assistance over the course of the book's writing, and I am also particularly grateful to Sophie Stewart at the National Co-operative Archive, Ourania Karapasia at The John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, Jill Sullivan at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection and Samantha Gilchrist at Glasgow University's Scottish Theatre Archive.
James Hallgate at Lucius Books in York generously allowed me to sit in his shop and pore over a collection of the papers of theatre director Hubert Gregg, and Danny Moar and Nicky Palmer at the Theatre Royal Bath provided copies of material from their archive. Alex Brown at the
and Anne Buchanan at Bath Central Library were also most helpful, as were Carl Smith at Torquay Museum, Jessica Bowles at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Rhian Latham at Companies House and Cecile Chaffard at the SociÃ©tÃ© des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques. My thanks, too, to the staff of Cambridge University Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum's Theatre and Performance Collections and the British Library Manuscripts Reading Room for their unfailing courtesy and efficiency.
In New York, I was welcomed to the Shubert Archive by Maryann Chach, Mark E. Swartz and Sylvia Wang. Mark's prompt responses to my numerous subsequent enquiries constitute a substantial contribution to the research for this book, and I am greatly indebted to him and to all at the Shubert Organisation. I am also most grateful to Walter Zvonchenko at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, for his expert guidance regarding Gilbert Miller's papers, and to Morgen Stevens-Garmon at the Theatre Collection of the Museum of the City of New York and Sharon Rork at the Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library for enabling me to access a wealth of material. Hilary Wall at the archive of the
Martha's Vineyard Gazette
responded to my email on the same day, attaching a copy of a historic document that was critical in developing a particular line of enquiry; Rick Loomis of antiquarian bookseller Sumner and Stillman in Yarmouth, Maine, promptly and helpfully assisted me with another; and Abbie Van Nostrand at Samuel French, Inc., New York, gave me some helpful pointers for reading material. Harold Ober Associates in New York very kindly approved my quotations from their agency's founder's correspondence, and I am particularly grateful to Craig Tenney for facilitating this.
Back in the UK, the following people have helped me by assisting with specific enquiries, opening doors or generally lending their support: Sanna Lorentzi Rosander at Peter
Harrington Rare Books and Manuscripts; Richard Ford at Richard Ford Manuscripts; Torquay tour guide John Risdon; the National Trust's team at Greenway House; Louise Cooper of the Garden History Society; Eileen Cottis of the Society for Theatre Research; Marcus Risdell, former Curator of the Garrick Club Library & Collections; Sue Parrish at Sphinx Theatre Company; Jess Coleman at Curtis Brown; Keeley Spindler at HMRC; and Lord Willoughby de Broke, Robert Maas, Charles Duff, Dr Aoife Monks, Michael Thornton, Rod Coton, Lee Menzies, Robert Noble, Thelma Holt, Malcolm Browning, Robert Israel, Brian Kirk, Patrick Sandford, Gyles Brandreth, James Hogan, Olivia Kelly, Sacha Brooks, Jo Blatchley, Martin Burton, Dick McCaw, Chloe Bennett, Philippe Carden, Mondane Carden, Dawn McLoughlin, Dr. Moira Goff, Rebecca Treanor and Simon Goose.
Historian Dr Peter Martland has been particularly generous with his time, guidance and good counsel; and Andrew McKinnon, Programme Director of Birkbeck College's MA in Creative Producing, has also been an invaluable source of information. Both have also provided helpful feedback on early drafts. Professor Martin Daunton and Professor Kathy Mezei kindly offered their guidance on particular areas of my research.
I am grateful to the Master, Fellows, students and staff of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, for their hospitality, support and good company during the writing of this book, in particular to Stuart and Sibella Laing, Professor Christopher Andrew and Jenny Andrew, Professor John Hatcher, the Revd James Buxton, Dr Richard McMahon, Dr Patrick Zutshi, Professor Hyman Gross, Dr David Burke, Tim Harvey-Samuel, Vanessa Addison, Kate Williams, Michael Martin and Andrew Baughan. I was delighted to be appointed Fellow Commoner at the College during the first year of the book's writing, and it continues to provide a stimulating and supportive environment in which to conduct my research.
As a producer, I have been privileged to stage over thirty productions of Agatha Christie's plays. These were made possible by Ian Lenagan (the 2001 Agatha Christie Theatre Festival) and Bill Kenwright (The Agatha Christie Theatre Company), and by
the talent and commitment of the creative teams and performers involved. Of my many friends and colleagues in these ventures, actor and director Roy Marsden, designer Simon Scullion and the ACTC's long-serving artistic director, Joe Harmston, have provided me with particularly valuable insights into the staging of Christie's work.
Very special thanks to my friends Ray Cooney, Keith Strachan, Tim Halford and Lee Waite, to my parents Eileen and Trevor Green, and to my partner Dianne Kelly â this book is for all of you.
Given the quantity of published and unpublished material that is quoted in this book, I have decided to standardise various elements of it in order to assist the reader. This includes the layout of playscripts and the style in which the titles of works are expressed: in italics if quoting from a publication and not so if quoting from correspondence. My own occasional comments in the midst of quoted material are indicated by [square brackets]. Minor spelling and typographical errors in original documents have been corrected unless I believe them to be of interest, in which case they are indicated with (sic). Documents quoted in this book that date from before the 1960s tend to refer to what we now call the director of a play as the âproducer' and what we now call the producer as the âmanager'. In such cases I have included a clarification. A number of Agatha Christie's plays underwent changes of title; where this occurred, the title used in this book is that of the particular draft, production or published edition being discussed.
As a reader I dislike footnotes and endnotes and find them an annoyance, but as a researcher I find it helpful when writers cite their sources. I hope that the solution we have found here is a good compromise. Superscript numbering in the text, which we have kept as subtle as possible, indicates in the normal way that there is a note, but the notes themselves will appear on the website hc.com/notes/CurtainUp. This
means that if you would like to consult the notes then you can refer to them on a screen while reading the book, without them causing a distraction on the page or creating the necessity to flick backwards and forwards in the book itself. The notes are principally a guide to sources for those who want to access them, and for the most part do not provide additional information. If something is worth mentioning, I believe it should appear in the book itself, so please do not feel that by not referring to them you are missing out on anything significant.
Finally, although a large number of individuals and organisations have facilitated my research for this book and have endorsed the use of material in it, it is important to clarify that no restrictions have been placed on what I have been allowed to say. The views contained herein are all my own, and are not necessarily shared by those whose support has made this book possible. And although I have benefited from a great deal of expert guidance in its preparation, I likewise take full responsibility for any mistakes, omissions or oversights. The necessary permissions have been obtained to quote from copyright material where its usage warrants this.