Duet For Two Hands
by Mary Hayley Bell
Unknown date, 1946-8
Duet For Two Hands is one of four plays by the English actress, writer and dramatist Mary Hayley Bell, wife of actor John Mills, who later wrote Whistle Down The Wind. It is a thriller about a pioneering surgeon and is set in the the castle of Forsinard on the Orkney Islands in 1904. A maimed poet is brought to the remote home of a surgeon who performs a transplant of new hands. Unfortunately, the hands once belonged to a murderer.
We don’t know for sure when or where this play was presented. Chelsfield Village Hall Dramatic Society put on a number of plays of uncertain date in the mid-1940s, but all we can say is that Duet For Two Hands was written in 1945 and the photos appear in an album labelled “1947-48”, so it is likely to have been performed by the Society between 1946 and 1948. Ellen George’s handwritten notes place it in 1947, but it is not listed in the “Past Productions” on the programme of The Importance Of Being Earnest from November of that year and, given that we know the dates of later shows with some certainty, it seems difficult to place it outside that range.