Skip to main content

Making Dickie Happy

Written by Jeremy Kingston
Directed by Robert Gillespie

First performed at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in 2004
Tono: David Peto
Cyril: Rob Pomfret
Agatha Christie: Caroline Wildi
Noel Coward: Robert Forknall
Dickie Mountbatten: Hywel John
J-Boy: Matt Reeves

Revived at the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon in 2005
Tono: Freddie Huntington
Cyril: Will Godfrey
Agatha Christie: Caroline Wildi
Noel Coward: Robert Forknall
Dickie Mountbatten: Hywel John
J-Boy: Nic Dawkes

Revived at the Tristan Bates Theatre in 2013
Tono: David Alderman
Cyril: Rob Pomfret
Agatha Christie: Helen Duff
Noel Coward: Phineas Pett
Dickie Mountbatten: James Phelips
J-Boy: Matthew Alexander

Author’s note:

The idea for this play took its first vague shape when I discovered that Coward, Mountbatten and Agatha Christie all used to visit the same hotel on Burgh Island in Devon. I wondered if an encounter between these three might be worth exploring, especially if it could take place while they were still only at the threshold of their careers. The result might resemble a Christie detective story with, hopefully, some of the wit of a Coward comedy.

But if it was to be a Christie then what was the crime? At this point I unearthed the astonishing fact that it was Mountbatten who suggested to Agatha Christie the ‘treacherous’ plot she eventually used in her innovative novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I would never have dared to invent such an incredible event, and it provided the focus and dramatic line for the ideas on life and love and partnership that I realised that I wanted to express in this play.

The song Devon comes from Noel Coward’s first revue London Calling!

Director’s note:

I had been delighted to work with Kingston on his Oedipus At The Crossroads – a witty exploration of the old Greek tale. It was exhilarating to find that someone else had been wondering at how absurd it is for grown-up people to listen to oracles – even to the point of doing away with their own children. So, it was with eager anticipation that I approached Making Dickie Happy. As well as enjoying all the exploration of how life and art spark off each other, I was hugely encouraged to find this sound thesis: that all attempts at relationships between humans (straight or gay) must end in compromise; all the couplings in this play do; and are no worse for that, given that nothing much else – let’s all face it – is possible… except in books.

From the play:

‘On the rare occasions when love deigns to come our way, it is the frenzy to have some one person in particular walk beside us: eat, drink, talk, listen, laugh, sleep, fart alongside. That is not what marriage is about, after the first few months of careful rapture. From rapture to rupture unless, dear Dickie, gazing upon your perfect lawn, you recognise that other grass is just as green and fragrant.’

“Kingston’s play is full of sharp dialogues and perceptively suggests that our moral codes are based on our personal preferences. Robert Forknall excellently conveys Coward’s love for machine-gun epigrams, while Caroline Wildi smoothly evokes the young Christie’s ethical probity and Hywel John’s bisexual Dickie is appropriately tricky”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

“A witty collision of characters in a sugar-spun comedy”

Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph

“Kingston’s imagination has run wild and witty in his brooding comedy of love and misunderstanding”

Nicholas de Jongh,
The Evening Standard

“Jeremy Kingston’s wonderfully witty and wily play…which ingeniously uses bizarre biographical facts, is a tart, entertaining disquisition on “the marrying kind”

Paul Taylor, The Independent

“The sexual tension builds up, right from the start, is both tangible and sustained”

Theo Spring

“Robert Gillespie deserves great credit for his direction of a strong ensemble who toss off bon mots effortlessly and hit the bull’s eye when detailing their own personal heartbreaks”

Brad Schreiber

“Having thrilled to the rapid machine gun fire wit that Robert Forknall delivered so deliciously in his role as Noel Coward… I realized the title statement had been left hanging”

Chrissie van Emst

“The lovely thing about this play by Jeremy Kingston (a long-serving Times theatre critic) is that although this sounds like poppycock, at different times all three really did stay at the Burgh hotel. Even better, it was indeed Mountbatten who suggested to Christie the plot for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in which the narrator is the killer. We should be grateful that this nugget fell into such skilled hands, and the play should be better known. It was produced just once in 2004, when Mountbatten relatives said they enjoyed it (while denying the gay stuff)”

Libby Purves, The Times March 2013