This Happy Breed
by Noël Coward; producer Colin George
16-17 May 1947, Civic Hall, Orpington
By May 1947, the Players were operating at full tilt after the ravages of war and were ready to tackle perhaps their first attempt at a play addressing contemporary society.
Coward’s This Happy Breed is perhaps his most serious play, dealing with a working-class family and its responses to the changing nature of being British between the end of ‘The War To End All Wars’ and the next war, which was looming on the horizon when the play was written and had ended less than two years before the Players’ production opened.
The reviewer from the Kentish Times warned that the play “makes heavy demands on the cast’s sincerity and understanding”, but added that “the cast satisfied those demands in full and amply deserved the reception they received from the enthusiastic audience”. He singled out Teddy Hollands, Ellen George, Jimmy Dean, Gladys Hollands and Kath Hart for special praise while stressing that the whole cast was “a well-knit team”. The reviewer concluded that “Colin George, as producer [what we would now call ‘director’], has much to be proud of and had obviously put in a great deal of work”.
The photos show that post-war austerity was no barrier to creating a realistic set. The preserved props list gives some clue as to how this was achieved.
Chelsfield Players revived the play in 2015, on the reasonable assumption that nobody who saw the original 68 years earlier would be in a position to compare the two productions.
As a matter of interest to archivists, the programme lists earlier plays that the Society’s official list shows as coming later. This has caused much head-scratching among those in the Society with nothing better to occupy their time.
Archivist’s note: I have tried to name the cast members in the photo captions, but obviously it has involved a bit of guesswork.