Play Reading in English - Post Mortem by Noël Coward


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 19-05-2014 7:15 PM - 2 h

Colette Artbar

Free admission


Post Mortem is a one-act, anti-militarist drama in eight scenes, written in 1930 by Noël Coward. He wrote it after appearing in, and being moved by, an earlier play about World War I, Journey's End. As soon as he had completed it, however, he decided that it was suitable for publication but not for production.

The play was first staged in a prisoner of war camp in Austria in 1944, and a television version was broadcast in 1968, but it was not professionally presented on stage until 1992, two decades after Coward's death. The work foreshadows Coward's treatment of the theme of ghosts in his 1940 play, Blithe Spirit in that the central part of Post Mortem portrays the protagonist John Cavan as a ghost whom everyone can see, but about whose nature the other characters are apparently not greatly concerned.

In Blithe Spirit there are two ghosts, which some characters can see and others cannot. In the opening scene John is mortally wounded in the trenches in France The next six scenes take place in England in 1930. John, now a ghost dressed in the muddy uniform he died in, encounters family, friends, and those of his wartime comrades who have survived. He finds out what the war, ended more than ten years past, has meant to them – not much, it turns out. This is the perfect choice of play to skewer the hypocrisy and cynicism of the current British government, currently ‘celebrating’ the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. The work also indicates that Coward was not always the patriotic, pro-establishment figure that he is sometimes represented as in the popular imagination.

Facilitators: Julian Quail and Sarah Bower

Play reading will be conducted in English.

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