doollee banner
The Playwrights Database
contact doollee



Kenneth Horne

KENNETH HORNE  (1900 - 1975)

Nationality:    British
email:    Click here to contact     Website:    n/a

Literary Agent:    Film Rights Ltd  

article: My grandfather Kenneth Horne, playwright, 1900-1975
at Christmas I slept on a camp-bed in my grandfatherıs study at the top of the house, a little garret with its own winding staircase. I wore my bright red dressing-gown and woke to find strings of gob-stoppers in my Christmas stocking. the room was full of dark wood and leather and publicity photos of leading ladies, and had a spooky mask from Malaysia on the wall. It was intricately carved in a hardwood, an empire trinket requisitioned for a jazz-age interior. Grandadıs desk was like the Police Chiefıs in a film noir, chunky and macho, and it was here that he wrote his twenty plays, thirteen of which made it to the West end between 1934 and 1965. I inherited the desk, which I have kept as a talisman.
I only gradually became aware that Grandad was a playwright. His last West end play, a Public Mischief, was adapted for television in the late sixties: I dimly remember mini-skirts flitting across a small black-and-white set. His swansong, the Coming Out Party, played in Bromley in 1970, the year my sister died; I was taken to see it, aged nine. We didnıt have the best seats in the house (why not?) but I remember a big, bright set, a story about ambiguity and embarrassment, and a wonderful performance from the actress who later played the grumpy guest in Fawlty Towers who complains about the view.
at the age of fifteen, when my grandfather was in the last year of his life, I read as many of his plays as I could lay my hands on, and then, inspired, wrote my first, a one-act comedy-thriller set in 1939 called Drawing-Room Tragedy. My art-teacher, a delightful old aesthete who was on a mission to bring refinement into our souls, lent me his furniture for my deco set in the schoolıs Theatre workshop. This was the mid-seventies, the era of Bibaıs sensational deco folly in Kensington High Street, when Anthony Price was dressing Bryan Ferry like the Great Gatsby: I was right in tune with fashion. But it was all about Grandad really. If he had been there he would have seen a bunch of schoolboys paying him and his world slavish tribute. Sadly, cancer carried him off before the curtain rose. .
My grandfather was school-of-Moliere, a pleaser, a wartime artist whose brief was to make an audience feel safe and loved. You could put on your nicest clothes, turn up at the Theatre and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were going to have good time. .
the only advice he ever gave me was, "Comedy must be played straight." This was also the basis of his writing. He wrote straight. the comedy is understated, camouflaged, the madness disguised. He lived in an age when things didnıt have to be gut-wrenchingly hilarious to be considered worthy of attention. as a result, his plays have room to breathe. Because they are not constantly falling over themselves to produce the next huge laugh, there is time for storytelling. .
If there is a theme running through them, it is the clash between irksome moral obligation and anarchic, frisky instinct, which is also the clash between nineteenth- and twentieth-century values. Coward is credited with having blown the formal speech-rhythms of previous English Drama out of the water with the flashy interchanges of his brats and flappers. Kenneth Horne also played his part in this dialogue revolution, although he lacked the benefit of Cowardıs thoughtlessness. Horneıs characters teeter on the brink of the outrageous, the perverse and the anarchic, but always shy away from the precipice and return to the fold. .
the best plays are the ones in which this conflict is most vividly Dramatised. In the Good Young Man (1940), a shabby family living in a cramped basement flat hear that they are to be visited by a distant cousin, a missionaryıs son brought up in Papua New Guinea, coming to england in search of a wife. Nothing, on the face of it, could be more tiresome; but the cousin turns out to be a dreamboat, Tarzan in a lounge-suit, and the case is instantaneously altered. the family is galvanised into self-reinvention, seduced by muscles and a smile. In Love In a Mist (1941), a secretary who embarks on a dirty week-end with her bossı son gets cold feet when they arrive, fog-stranded, at a gothic B&B on exmoor; she appeals to a newly-wed bride to help her escape the clutches of her date. This is the one where Grandad really got it right, where he fused theme and tone and imagery. Love is a mist, an attempt to communicate with the person youıre in love with, in the face of differing expectations and needs and points of reference. Nihilism lurks in the hellish Groundhog Day circularity of the plot, but is kept safely at bay, like a monster in a cage for us to tease. When the fog finally clears, it is revealed that there is a perfectly nice hotel just across the road, along with a petrol station and everything needed for escape. Salvation, sanctuary it would all be there for us if only we could de-mist our perception. .
Coward felt that if the Germans had invaded england, the intellectuals would have been the first to collaborate, and my grandfather shared this deep mid-century mistrust of the intellectual. He disliked education and was less than supportive of his childrenıs academic aspirations. Given this, the painstaking craftsmanship of his writing is all the more remarkable, although a clue may lie in the fact that he had probably read and seen a lot of Shaw, with whom he shared a manager, Roy Limbert. Yet anti-intellectualism was to prove his achilles heel. When Kenneth Tynan launched his attack on the well-made play in the fifties, my grandfather didnıt know what had hit him. Tynanıs broadside seemed liked malice, when in fact it was a more a force of history. Grandad remained hurt to the end of his life, and his depressive side, which had once been held in balance with the manic upswing that gave us the comedies, took over. the changes of the times were taking place in the realm of ideas; it was, therefore, a choice between intellectual engagement and artistic death. My grandfather was unable to engage, and his last plays lack brio. there is a misconception that Kenneth Horne wrote bedroom farces; he didnıt, but a play such as Wolfıs Clothing (1958) paved the way for certain tawdry productions of later decades. .
My grandfather was a magician who defied the laws of misery and limitation, pulling an endless succession of rabbits out of his hat, all the way through the depression and the war and into the drab, traumatic fifties. Unlike Coward he never branded himself. He was incapable of giving interviews, let alone swishing around onstage with a cocktail and a cigarette-holder. and so, in a century that demanded iconic visual presences, he faded away like the ghost in his play and This Was Odd the play which Coward plagiarised to get his biggest hit. .
Ironically, my own identity as a gay man meant that I would ultimately be more drawn to Coward, and this made me, in my own mind at least, both keeper of the family flame and traitor to it. My belief is that an artist actually has no choice as to his subject matter, because art is a dialogue between the unconscious and the world. My stories have always had a nervous preoccupation with sex and relationship, a scratching of an erotic itch which is not to everyoneıs taste. I have risked alienating family and even some of my contemporaries. .
I have no idea what my grandfather would think of me if he knew me now. Would he be proud, or would he think my work filth? I have his desk and I think of him frequently, although I feel closer to Orton and Tennessee. What I can say is that my connection with him gave a certain twist to the course of my development as a writer. When I was growing up, nothing could have been less fashionable than 1930s drawing-room comedy, yet I gorged myself on it. It was, if you like, the equivalent of a visual artist getting a thorough grounding in anatomy. there is a large part of me that is mad and confused and embattled and ambivalent and an outsider, but there is also, deep down, a part of me that knows that if you sweep across the stage, light a cigarette and say a certain kind of line in a certain kind of way, an audience will laugh. .
Gay people do not have an easy relationship with society. Theatre and film, moreover, are two of the more whorish branches of the arts, arenas in which the artist must supply pleasure or go under. Why is it, then, that gay men make good playwrights? My suspicion is that it has everything to do with an itchy kind of relationship with family. I have had an itchy relationship not just with family but with a bona fide playwright, and that has enabled me to evolve my own style. .
Why am I re-reading my grandfatherıs plays now? Itıs because I recently rediscovered Theatre, after two decades spent rushing around in the worlds of pop and cinema. Itıs because Iıve written my first proper full-length play and itıs going on this year. and I look at it and I can clearly see where I come from. .
COPYRIGHT ROBeRT FaRRaR 2006

Buy Plays with Doollee

Each page of doollee.com has links to play/book outlets, either directly to the Publisher, through Stageplays.com and Amazon to the second hand and 1st editions of AbeBooks. These links will automatically take you to the relevant area obviating the need for further search.
AbeBooks.co.uk   AbeBooks.com   Stageplays.com   amazon.com   amazon.co.uk   amazon.ca
whether you are a Playwright who wishes to make their entry definitive, an unlisted Playwright or a User with a tale to tell - we want to hear from you.
download WORD submission template

below is a list of Kenneth Horne's plays - click on a Play Title for more information

        And This Was Odd         Badger Game, The         Devil Was Sick. . ., The         Fools Rush In         Good Young Man         Jane Steps Out         Lady Mislaid         Love In A Mist         Public Mischief, A         Sleeping Partnership         Trial And Error         Two Dozen Red Roses         Wasn't It Odd?         Wolf's Clothing         Yes And No



And This Was Odd

Synopsis:
a woman discovers that her sleeping draught allows her out of body experiences. She has some fun with her ability and also solves family problems

Notes:
1st performed As Wasn't It Odd?

1st Produced:
Criterion, London    02 Oct 1951

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London, 1975   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Three act Light Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  6            Other:  -

Further Reference:
Wearing - the London Stage 51.227

Top of Page Top of Page

Badger Game, The

Synopsis:
-

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London, 1959   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Strong Drama

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  1            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Devil Was Sick. . ., The

Synopsis:
a woman arrives at the vicarage and tells the vicar that she is married to his father - and that the woman who was his mother was married bigamously. there is a large sum that has been left by the vicar's father and with no will it will go to the first wife.

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
Bournmouth: Pavilion    29 Oct 1956

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French, London, 1957   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Three act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  4            Female:  4            Other:  -

Further Reference:
Wearing - the London Stage 56.245

Top of Page Top of Page

Fools Rush In

Synopsis:
wedding vows cause problems and elopement ensues

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French, London, 1947   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Three act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  5            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Good Young Man

Synopsis:
-

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London, 1940   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Three act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  -            Female:  -            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Jane Steps Out

Synopsis:
Beatrice has invited Basil down for the weekend - she hopes to announce her engagement. Her plain sister Jane and grandmother have other ideas and a make over turns Jane into a very attractive young woman. But Basil discovers their plot and is not very happy about it. then he accidentally compromises Jane and her parents insist that he marry her.

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French Ltd, London   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  5            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Lady Mislaid

Synopsis:
after one of two sisters has a nervous breakdown they take an isolated cottage for the summer. No sooner have they moved in when the police arrive and start digging up the garden looking for a murder victim.

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
embassy    09 Nov 1948

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London, 1950   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Two act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  4            Other:  -

Further Reference:
Wearing - the London Stage 50.13

Top of Page Top of Page

Love In A Mist

Synopsis:
two separate couples take refuge in a bungalow from the fog on exmoor, one couple continue their honey moon the other fall in love

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French, London, 1942   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Three act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  3            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Public Mischief, A

Synopsis:
Mark persuades Bridgett to leave her husband Nicholas. So that no one will know what is going on they arrange her disappearance to look like a bathing accident. However, the police think Nicholas has murdered her.

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
Newcastle upon Tyne    1965

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London, 1965   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Two act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  4            Female:  4            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Sleeping Partnership

Synopsis:
-

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London, 1952   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Two act Comedy

Parts:
Male:  -            Female:  -            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Trial And Error

Synopsis:
honeymoon frolics as allegedly murdered first husband reappears and comes to blows with the new groom

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
Devonshire pArk, eastbourne    27 Jul 1953

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French, London,    -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  4            Other:  -

Further Reference:
Wearing - the London Stage 53.221

Top of Page Top of Page

Two Dozen Red Roses

Synopsis:
-

Notes:
From the Italian of Aldo de Benedetti.

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild, London,    -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  2            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page

Wasn't It Odd?

Synopsis:
a woman discovers that her sleeping draught allows her out of body experiences. She has some fun with her ability and also solves family problems

Notes:
aka And This Was Odd

1st Produced:
Intimate, Palmers Green, London    10 Jun 1940

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
english Theatre Guild   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Three act Light Comedy

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  6            Other:  -

Further Reference:
Wearing - the London Stage 51.227

Top of Page Top of Page

Wolf's Clothing

Synopsis:
andrew has always had a roving eye and whenever he wanders his wife Janet goes to stay with her friends Sally and Julian. Janet knows that whenever this happens a contrite andrew follows her and they both stay in the spare bedroom. On this occasion Janet asks Sally to swap rooms. Julian has gone to the station to pick up andrew. Sally leaves a note for Julian telling him about the room swap but he does not read it. . . . .

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
Brighton: Theatre Royal    16 Feb 1959?

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French, London, 1959   -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
Comedy 3 act

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  4            Other:  -

Further Reference:
Wearing - the London Stage 59.48

Top of Page Top of Page

Yes And No

Synopsis:
act One: we see what happens when Jo says "No". act two: we see what happens if Jo had said "Yes". act three what she really said and what happened.

Notes:
-

1st Produced:
-    -

Organisations:
-

1st Published:
Samuel French, NY,    -

Music:
-

To Buy This Play:
If Publisher (above) is underlined then the play may be purchased by direct click from the Publisher, otherwise (below) are AbeBooks for secondhand, signed & 1st eds and other Booksellers for new copies

Booksellers:

Genre:
-

Parts:
Male:  3            Female:  4            Other:  -

Further Reference:
-

Top of Page Top of Page