Waiting in the Wings

Written by Noël Coward

Thurs 28th November - Sat 30th November - Tues 3rd December - Sat 7th December 1991

Directed by John Scadding

The Wings is a home for retired actresses. When two rival stars find they will be living together, trouble can be expected. Add the inquisitive press, a clutch of stagey biddies and what of course inevitably does 'wait in the wings', and we have the master's last-but-one play of pathos and comedy.

"I thoroughly recommend it." NC

AuthorNoël Coward

Sir Noël Pierce Coward (1899 - 1973)

Noël Coward was not only a prolific playwright but a poet, composer, director, actor and singer too. Well-known for his wit and flamboyance, his work and style continue to influence popular culture.

Born in Teddington, Coward attended a dance academy as a child, making his professional stage debut at the age of eleven. As a teenager he was introduced into the high society in which most of his plays would be set. Coward achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works, poetry, several volumes of short stories, a novel (Pomp and Circumstance) and a three-volume autobiography. Coward's stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coward volunteered for war work. He worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama, In Which We Serve, and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs and the former Albery Theatre was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in his honour in 2006.

PlayWaiting in the Wings

'Waiting in the Wings' was Coward's fiftieth play. It premiered in 1960 and is set in a charitable retirement home for actresses in that era, over a period of several months. It focuses on a feud between elderly residents Lotta Bainbridge and May Davenport, who once both loved the same man. The home itself is run by a charity; the committee for which, tries various means to raise money, however it soon becomes apparent that most of the committee members are regarded with scorn by the residents. A fund-raising show is organised, and separately, a journalist is invited to visit in the hopes of generating publicity and income for the charitable foundation. The plan backfires somewhat when an scathing article is published - however the cheque which arrives from the newspaper, softens the blow. Several of the residents' conditions deteriorate and the inevitable death of a character is at poignant odds with its circumstances. The final scene between Lotta and her son is a touching portrayal and reveals the cause of the decades-old animosity between the two main actresses. This play is a wise and compassionate address of the problems of aging and death that confront everyone crafted with Noël Coward's trademark comedy and wit.

The Bench Production

Waiting in the Wings poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


May DavenportRita de Bunsen
Cora ClarkeJane Hemsley-Brown
Bonita BelgraveRuth Prior
Maudie MelroseWendy Stangroom
Deirdre O'MalleyJenny Wilcox
Almina ClareSue Spencer
Estelle CravenCeri Tipler
Perry LascoeSimon O'Shea
Miss ArchieIngrid Corrigan
Osgood MeekerDerek Cusdin
Lotta BainbridgeNicola Scadding
DoraRosemary Sawyer
DoreenZoe or Alice Corrigan
Sarita MyrtleSydonie Platt
Zelda FenwickLisa Burrows
Doctor JevonsSteven Penfold
Alan BennetSimon Norton
Topsy BaskervilleRosemary Sawyer


Director John Scadding
Stage Management Rosemary Sawyer
Lighting/Sound Rob Finn, Sacha Pennington Ellis, Steven Penfold
Set Design David Hemsley-Brown

Director's Notes

Characters by Coward have been sometimes described as being like "talking typewriters" with the charm of "stinging nettles". I prefer, however, to think of them as being more like warm-hearted icebergs!

"Hot ice", you may say "and wondrous strange snow." And hereby lies the mystery - the trouble with Coward.

The trouble with Coward was the problem he had finding a way to combine the warm side of himself with the harsher cold side. At his best he would manage it and act like a jovial ice-cube. At his worst, he would be stiff and rigid like those dreadful toffs in 'Cavalcade', or soppy as hell as in some of his musicals.

In his life as in his art there was a continuous struggle to combine the hard and the soft, the cold and the warmth in his own personality.

Tonight you will witness, among all the other happenings, the struggle of the soggy people to gain a bit of strength and the over strong people to achieve a bit of warmness. And some do finally make it. Hooray!

John Scadding

Production Photographs