by David Allen

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by David Allen

This script is part of the Nimrod 50 Collection and is a premiere publication.

In 1919, when he was still Arthur Jefferson (and before meeting Oliver Hardy), Stan Laurel meets an Australian actress (originally from Brunswick, Melbourne). They’re both working working on the North American vaudeville circuit in a troupe which includes another hopeful young comedian called Charles Chaplin.. called Kate in the play (though based on Mae Dahlberg) she claims to be a widow, despite the fact that her husband Rupert was alive and well, if conveniently elsewhere. Mae became Jefferson’s common- law wife. When he changed his name, she styles herself Mae Laurel, although they never married. 

Mae was older than Laurel, and nowhere near as talented. When he moved to Hollywood, she came with him, but by 1925 Laurel was in love with another actress, Lois Neilson. When it became clear to everyone that Mae was holding Laurel back both in his career and his love life – to everyone, that is, except Mae – she was paid to disappear. 

The plays documentary/theatrical style involves many vaudeville routines – but asks big questions about art, sacrifice and love - are relationships more important than career? As portrayed here the sympathy is all with Stan — firm in working up his art but weak in facing up to the cloying pushiness of Kate - though the report of his subsequent five wives makes one wonder whether women weren’t just stepping stones for him. Tragedy tracks both comedians through their lives, but this is an engaging, enlivened work filled with the vaudeville (and hence the Nimrod) spirit.

“Brilliant ‘theatre’ as a vehicle for performer, and excellent entertainment, the work of a sophisticated beginner who knows not only how to write dialogue but how to write for actors.” H.G.Kippax – SMH, 1978

First produced by Troupe Theatre Company, Adelaide, 1977.

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