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Making Dickie Happy - Tristan Bates Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

JANE Nightwork Productions is presenting a revival of Jeremy Kingston’s critically acclaimed Making Dickie Happy at the Tristan Bates Theatre – from March 5 to March 30, 2013.

The brittle, brilliant world of England’s literary and social elite is ingeniously depicted in this breezy, quick-witted re-staging which concerns a young Noel Coward and his boyfriend Tono, a young Lord Louis “Dickie” Mountbatten and Agatha Christie.

First staged in 2004 at North London’s Rosemary Branch Theatre, Making Dickie Happy will be performed just a stone’s throw from St Martin’s Theatre, where Christie’s The Mousetrap is playing.

Kingston imagines what would have happened had the three, who in reality all holidayed at a hotel on Burgh Island off the Devon coast at various times, been brought together over one weekend. Thus the weekend is fictitious, the people real.

The trio find themselves at the hotel together. The First World War has ended but remains a vital memory. Three of the characters have been in the Navy (and two of them still are); a fourth fought in the trenches; and even Noel Coward served in the Army, though not for very long.

Making Dickie Happy is described as a fascinating look at relationships, marriages, engagements, promises, hellos and goodbyes.

Agatha Christie is a little older than the men, married and the mother of a small daughter. At this early stage in her career she has written a couple of Hercule Poirot novels, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Murder on the Links, and a volume of Poirot stories, Poirot Investigates, first serialised in the newspaper The Sketch.

‘Dickie’ Mountbatten is on the fringe of numerous royal families but only on the fringe. His carefully nurtured friendship with the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), has already helped his social profile, and he has recently accompanied the Prince on a successful tour of India.

Noel Coward was 19 when his first play, I’ll Leave it to You, was produced in the West End, followed by a second, The Young Idea, and a revue, London Calling! (1923). Through these, he became a minor celebrity but real success lay ahead.

Making Dickie Happy is directed by Robert Gillespie, who has contributed to seventeen productions at the King’s Head Theatre, most of them world premieres. As well as Making Dickie Happy at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, he also directed a biting re-write of the Oedipus story, Oedipus at the Crossroads (2003) by Jeremy Kingston, and Sex, Death and a Baked Swan (2005), a play about female gladiators by Debbie Cook, both of which premiered at the Rosemary Branch Theatre.

As an actor, he is probably best known for appearances in TV sit-coms such as Keep it in the Family – he played Dudley Rush in five series, a part written for him by Brian Cooke – The Likely Lads, Dad’s Army, Rising Damp, Porridge and Bonjour La Classe (as Gilbert Herring). Recently, he featured in Cardboard Citizens’ striking production of their WWII epic, Mincemeat.

As a writer, Gillespie contributed to TV’s That Was The Week That Was; especially A Consumer’s Guide To Religion (performed by David Frost) which provoked questions in the House. More recently, he has performed in his own two-hander My Heart (about death and gods) and directed Love, Question Mark, his piece about the myth of monogamy.

As well as Making Dickie Happy and Oedipus at the Crossroads, Jeremy Kingston’s other plays include No Concern of Mine and Signs of the Times. He has also written scripts for Desmond Morris on Granada TV, a novel, two children’s books and in 2008 his first collection of poems, On the Lookout (Hearing Eye). He was the theatre critic on Punch for ten years and since 1985 has been one of the theatre critics on The Times.

Making Dickie Happy will be designed by Gregor Donnelly. Casting has yet to be announced.

Tickets: £14, £10 concessions – available by phone on 020 7240 6283, via e-mail at boxoffice@tristanbatestheatre.co.uk and online at www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Sunday matinees at 3.30pm.

Running Time: 2 hours (with interval).

Making Dickie Happy is suitable for all ages.

Also at the Tristan Bates Theatre in March: Fear of Music by Barney Morris.