Esmé (Saville) Percy



  • (1887 - 1957) Eccentric British actor and director, whoseglass eye often posed problems for his fellow cast members. Percytrained in Sarah Bernhardt's company, but she advised himto leave because he was too much like her. The versatility of hisvoice was extraordinary; he once did a radio version of Hamletin which he played the Ghost, the Player King, and Osric.

    In 1913 Percy formed a touring company that specialized inworks by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. After World War I, heran a theater in Cologne for British troops, persuading Mrs PatrickCampbell to appear there as Eliza to his Henry Higgins inPygmalion. As was Mrs Pat's habit, she bullied him mercilesslyon stage, telling him in a whisper to hurry up, and then to slow down.She finally gazed in horror at his suede shoes and, turning her backto the audience, growled, "Oh you're quite wrong. He's not thatkind of man at all."

    Percy subsequently became general producer of the Shaw RepertoryCompany; one of his most acclaimed roles with the troupe was Dobellein Denis Johnston's The Moon in the Yellow River (1934). Hespent the last years of his career with the English Stage Companyat the Royal Court Theatre.

    Percy was short and plump and had a broken nose as well asthe glass eye (replacing the one he lost when attacked by a GreatDane). One night in 1949 the eye fell out during his big scene asMatthew Skipps, a drunken tinker, in Christopher Fry's The Lady'sNot For Burning. "We were all too dismayed to move,"recalled John Gielgud who was in the cast with Richard Burton.Percy frantically whispered, "Oh, do be careful, don't treadon it, they cost £8 each." Percy wore a black patch forthe subsequent performances.