James Bridie



  • (Osborne Henry Mavor; 1888 - 1951) Scottish doctor whobecame a noted playwright and co-founder in 1943 of the Glasgow Citizens'Theatre. A pioneer of the so-called 'play of ideas', Bridie greatlyinvigorated the Scottish theater with his 40-or-so plays and in 1950founded the College of Drama in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music,Glasgow. His plays tended to suffer from loose construction and weakfinal acts. He excused himself by stating "Only God can writelast acts, and He seldom does."

    His first great success, The Anatomist (1930),was followed by Tobias and the Angel (1931), Jonah and theWhale (1932), and A Sleeping Clergyman (1933). His anti-fascistplay King of Nowhere, presented by the Old Vic Company at theNew Theatre in 1938, starred Olivier as a half-mad actor who escapesfrom an asylum and becomes the leader of a dangerous new politicalparty.

    Many of Bridie's plays dealt with religion and the supernaturaland required unusual special effects. In Jonah and the Whale,Jonah sat crosslegged in the belly of the whale under a red lightwhile a dozen amplifiers blasted the auditorium. Bridie's stage directionstates: "The audience is to be deafened by the bellowing noiseand hyptonised by the small, impassive, red-lit figure on the stage."

    A late success came in 1949 when Edith Evans played Lady Pittsin his controversial Daphne Laureola. Reviewers on both sidesof the Atlantic loved her performance and disliked Bridie's play.

    For the 1950 Edinburgh Festival Bridie wrote The Queen'sComedy, often considered his best work. He continued writing untilthe year of his death.

    Bridie's son, Ronald Mavor, was also a playwright, best rememberedfor A Private Matter (1973) about an author writing a biographyagainst the wishes of his subject's family. The production was oneof the first to feature full male nudity.