[Braham Sydney Murray, theatre director: his first-ever production, for the Oxford University Dramatic Society.] Typescript of Brendan Behan's 'The Hostage', with extra pages covered with autograph directorial notes and stage directions.

Braham Sydney Murray [born Braham Goldstein] (1943-2018), director, one of five founding Artistic Directors, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester [Brendan Behan; Oxford University Dramatic Society]
Publication details: 
[Oxford University Dramatic Society, 1961.]
SKU: 22931

For the background see Murray's 2014 autobiography 'The Worst It Can Be Is A Disaster', where he describes the production as 'a big production with its quasi-musical form. In such a large cast some of the actors were rather basic but some were superb. Michael Elwyn brought the house down as Monsewer [...] Michael York was very touching as the innocent Cockney soldier and the brother owners were expertly played by Ian Davidson, who later became a successful comedy scriptwriter, and the beautiful Canadian Nancy Lane, who is now a distinguished professor at Cambridge. Anyway, it was a pretty massive success.' See also Murray's obituary in the Daily Telegraph, 1 August 2018, in which he is described as 'the last surviving founder director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre', who 'kept it running after it was devastated by an IRA bomb in 1996', and is 'also credited with saving Joe Orton’s black comedy Loot from theatrical oblivion'. Murray read English at University College, Oxford, but neglected his studies for the theatre, dropping out in 1964 on the overnight success of his revue 'Hang Down Your Head and Die'. The present item is the first of his undergraduate productions with the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS). Behan's play had seen its London première a few years before, at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in October 1958. Littlewood was a major influence on Littlewood: a few years later his 1964 revue 'Hang Down Your Head and Die' was inspired by her 'Oh! What a Lovely War!' In her autobiography Murray's Oxford contemporary the feminist theorist Sheila Rowbotham describes her part in the production, during her first term at St Hilda's in 1961, with Murray telling her at the audition to 'Be a whore', and teaching her 'to say fuckin' hell in stage Irish and do the twist'. Another actor in the production was a future Hollywood star. Rowbotham recalls how she 'necked with the wistful hostage, a blond-haired Michael Johnson (later to be known as Michael York)'. The present item is 162pp, in a ruled 4to exercise book. Laid down the rectos are leaves of a typescript of the complete three-act play, paginated 1-85 (but with mispagination skipping 34-37, although the text is complete). The typescript is covered with Murray's directorial notes. The versos of the exercise book are filled with Murray's stage directions in his autograph, including diagrams of settings. The following examples give an indication of the tone. The directions begin: 'The music starts before the curtain goes up. When it goes up, Pat is sitting at the table unable to join in because of his leg, he stares solidly out front. The dance will be full-blooded, wild, setting the tone of the play - but the stage will be empty at the curtain up and the dancers will charge on. [...]' Later on comes: 'PAT says this to divert his attention. There is a scream BOBO runs onto the landing clutching a towel round her. COLIN rushes after her a little less dignified in pants and long combs. [...] While he is having conversation with MONSEWER, PAT can always be winking at the audience etc.' Towards the end Murray writes: 'Silent Scream Sequence. Piano. | All the male extras including the Mouse and Pigseye mill about the stage. Silent smoke puffs. The whores run down the stage and join in. COLETTE walks across in the mess with a sign saying The End is at Hand. | LESLIE runs to the window where a light picks him out and he is shot well before he gets there. When he finally falls in the chaos it is right of the table. MONSEWER is pointing the gun at the window where the forces come in from. The forces are all the male extras, who went off at the end of the sequence. The whores areon. | They enter the main entrance'. Shorter directions are along the lines of: 'Delivered probably at breakneck speed' and 'Careful to get this out, a vital piece of explanation'.