Accolade, Emlyn Williams, 1950

Michael Billington: There's one writer who's not there, whom I think highly of, called Emlyn Williams, who hasn't been much done lately; his most famous play was called Night Must Fall, which was about actually a serial killer who always hid the heads of his victims in a hat box. And I remember going to see this as a child and being haunted by image of a hat box containing a severed head. But that's not play of his I would like to see, there's a play called Accolade he wrote in 1950, which was revived recently by the Finborough Theatre in London, and very briefly its about a man who on the eve of his investiture as a knight is discovered to have a dubious sex life; he's been having sex with an underage girl in Rotherhithe, not that he was aware perhaps she was underage. And, you know this sort of dark private life explodes on the very eve of his public accolade.
Now, we're perhaps not so surprised these days that public figures have private lives, but of course in 1950 that was quite a controversial, dodgy thing to write about, particularly on the West End commercial stage; the idea that the pillars of society were sort of hollow at the core as it were. It's a wonderful play and when it was revived it absolutely packed out the theatre and people said this should transfer to the West End but it never did. And I just think Williams is a writer who deserves to be there.

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