Why is every new book that comes out advertised and labelled on its cover as “The Number One best Seller”? They can’t all be the number one best sellers. Every paperback I’ve read recently has been labelled the number one best seller and what brought this to mind is that I noticed a WHSmith book of the week advertisement in The Sunday Times, “One day in May” by Catherine Alliott the number one best seller but going at half price. Why is it going at half price, one is tempted to ask, if it’s the number one best seller? I suppose going at half price is better than the old-fashioned remainder table (does that still exist with today’s print on demand?) but no one; bookseller, publisher, or author can get very much out of £3.99, or can they? You’ve really got it made as a number one bestseller when your name is above and larger than the title of your book. I notice Miss Alliott hasn’t got to that stage yet.
Also an interesting article on modern playwrights and London’s West End. ‘You know you’re getting on when the playwrights start looking young.’ I suppose that’s a variation on all the policemen looking sixteen and in this case, not the policemen, the playwrights, are all women. Heading the list is one Ella Hickson, described as shining the brightest and she is only 26. She is followed by seven others all in their twenties or thirties except for the youngest who was nineteen when her first play was produced at The Royal Court. Am I envious? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. On the other hand it’s good to see some original work is being produced as opposed to nothing but revivals and musicals, (I see South Pacific has been back, both a musical and a revival) but I can’t help thinking of Shelagh Delaney whose first play “A Taste of Honey” was produced by Joan Littlewood at Stratford East when the lass was nineteen years old and a very good play it was of its time. She originally wrote it as a novel but says when she saw a production of Terence Rattigan’s “Variations on a Theme” which she considered bland and trivial she thought she could do better and decided to turn her novel into a play.
Has Miss Delaney written anything else for the theatre? I can’t see that she has although she is credited with several television plays and a collection of sort stories.
As for Mister Rattigan who was often pooh-poohed in his lifetime, he is having an Indian summer with a number of his plays being revived both in London and the provinces and receiving excellent notices. I wonder how many of our eight young ladies will still be writing for the theatre in their fifties and beyond or will some of them turn out to be merely one play playwrights? Whatever, all strength to the respective elbows. To be so successful so young? I’m not sure it is such a good thing. But if success never comes that is terrible!
My first stage play “Oh Brother” was produced in Ipswich when I was in my twenties but it never went any further. The second, “Early One Morning” when I was in my thirties and in no uncertain manner shot down in flames by the London critics as was a later play, “The 88” at the Old Vic in 1979. There have been a dozen or so more productions but nothing that has caught fire. The artist Modigliani gave away paintings in exchange for a meal and the moment he was dead they couldn’t be sold off fast enough. Unlike Rattigan, who did have some success in his life, like Modigliani someone might discover my plays when I am dead. Unfortunately I won’t be around to see it.