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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
'Lost' Noel Coward play uncovered
Noel Coward
The play was written before Noel Coward became well known
A Noel Coward play which had been untouched for almost 90 years has been rediscovered by Welsh academics.

Two University of Glamorgan professors found the one-act play among archives in the British Library during research for a book they were writing.

The Better Half, was last performed in 1922 by the London-based Grand Guignol company, but never published.

The play is described as "a comedy of manners" which focuses on a husband and wife and her best friend.

Professor Mike Wilson, who found the play, explained: "The husband and wife are in an unhappy relationship and he is about to embark on an affair, but he is an honourable man and refuses to consummate it.

"They are trying to keep it away from the wife but unknown to him, she already knows and is trying to encourage it because she knows they are unhappy.

"It's quite unconventional."

It's every researcher's dream to come across a manuscript that hasn't been paid attention to and was thought to be lost
Prof Mike Wilson

Coward, who was born in 1899 and died in 1973, was an actor, playwright and songwriter who became known as "The Master" because of his accomplishments in so many artistic fields.

Prof Wilson and his colleague Professor Richard Hand found the manuscript for the play while conducting research on the theatre company, who performed it for their book London's Grand Guignol and the Theatre of Horror.

"We knew the play existed but we didn't know if we would find it," explained Prof Wilson.

"All plays before 1969 had to have a licence so we thought if it existed it would be in the lord chamberlain's archive.

"All copies of plays had to be kept, but over the years some get lost or damaged so it was with a great deal of satisfaction when the file came through that there sitting among it was the copy of the play.

"We spoke to the Noel Coward estate and they thought it was the only copy in existence.

"It is only a short play and was written two years before he wrote The Vortex and before he became famous."

He said the play would generate interest among Coward fans worldwide.

"It's every researcher's dream to come across a manuscript that hasn't been paid attention to and was thought to be lost," he added.

London theatre company, The Sticking Place, is performing the piece from 17 October-10 November at the Union Theatre, Southwark.



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