Malcolm Sinclair stars as Noel Coward; Eleanor Bron as Lorn Loraine his devoted secretary; with Tam Williams as Cole Lesley as his valet, in Marcy Kahan’s quintet of biographical comedies for radio.

Design for Murder
Actor, playwright, songwriter, director and star-Noel Coward never quite added sleuth to his astonishing achievements. But just before the war with Hitler, there is a gap in his memoirs. Is there a murder mystery within those days? Piano Neil Brand Director: Ned Chaillet Winifred: Kristin Milward Edward/Judith: Nicholas Boulton Greta: Gemma Saunders Tony: Joe Dunlop Hoskins: Don McCorkindale

This tongue-in-cheek murder mystery, set in and around the Globe Theatre (now the Novello Theatre) centred around Coward’s (Malcolm Sinclair’s) efforts to write a new play and persuade Gertrude Lawrence to star in it. Aided and abetted by his devoted companions Lorne Lorraine (Eleanor Bron) and Cole Lesley (Tam Williams), he finally manages to do so; but not without a lot of fuss and bother, chiefly involving a young would-be writer Tony (Joe Dunlop), who eventually turns out to be a psychopath, holding Coward at gun-point in the theatre before committing suicide. The action unolds light-heartedly, with Coward exchanging banter with his two companions; in particular the long-suffering Lorraine has a hard job trying to persuade ‘The Master’ to keep his attention on writing the play and not become involved in extraneous affairs. However Coward cannot do this: love renders him oblivious to Tony’s disturbed nature. Although ‘The Master’ energed unscathed in the end, we get the sense that he is actually a very isolated person, unable to admit to his sexuality in public at a time when homosexuality was illegal. He has his companions’ support, but no actual love. As Coward, Malcolm Sinclair gives a convincing performance as someone with a ready wit and a wonderful turn of phrase; but perhaps these virtues compensate for an overriding sense of loneliness. First broadcast in 2001, this drama was directed by Ned Chaillet.

Blithe Spy
A highly improbable Second World War espionage adventure featuring a highly improbable spy… with a talent to amuse. Director: Gordon House Neysa McMein: Elizabeth McGovern Jon Smith: Adam Sims F.D. Roosevelt: Bob Sherman Fortnum: Ian Masters Liaison officer: Ian Masters Simpson: Kerry Shale Willoughby: Peter Marinker Conklin: Gerard McDermott

Set aboard an ocean liner and in New York City, Blithe Spy involved Coward (Malcolm Sinclair) in another preposterous plot involving an attractive young man Jonathan (Adam Sims), two double agents who turned out to be working for the Germans, and a rendezvous with President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Bob Sherman). Coward was engaged as a spy; but the only problem was that no one could understand his theatrically-inspired secret codes exccpt for his devoted secretary Lorne Lorraine (Eleanor Bron). This abstrusness very nearly capatulted ‘The Master’ to an early grave, as he was once again held at gunpoint by the German double agents. However Lorne managed to crack Coward’s code in the nick of time so as to facilitate his rescue. In this play Coward came across as someone who, although proud of his national identity, viewed New York City as his second home. Hence he empathized with the Anericans. However, once at the point of a gun, he displays the kind of British sang froid that made it seem as it he was not really scared of what might follow, even though he actually was very scared. Once he had been released, and had the chance to meet the President, he encouraged Roosevelt to persuade the American people to become involved in the War, even though he realized the difficulty of trying to convince those in the mid-west (for whom the term Nazi had no real significance). Blithe Spy was an entertaining adventure, distinguished by a remarkable vocal impersonation of Coward from Sinclair. The director was Gordon House.

A Bullet at Balmain’s
Coward is in the post-liberation Paris of 1948 to play the lead in his own play, Present Laughter, in French. But the murder of a promiscuous mannequin provides a stylish distraction. Director/Producer Ned Chaillet Ginette: Linda Marlowe Monique: Susy Kane Beatrice: Jaimi Barbakoff Chester Everal: A Walsh Jean-Marc: William Hootkins Vendeuse: Frances Jeater

Set in 1948, this haute couture mystery was set in Paris, at a time when Noel Coward (Malcolm Sinclair) was about to perform his hit play Present Laughter in French. The plot itself involved a murdered mannequin, a harassed fashion house maitresse – Coward’s devoted friend Ginette Spanier (Linda Marlowe) – and a psychopathic French murdeer and sugar-daddy (William Hootkins) who ended up holding Coward at gun-point just as the Master was about to perform the third act of Present Laughter to an audience almost entirely comprised of Parisian high society. Needless to say Coward escaped, due in no small part to a deux ex machina who ensured that the killer was safely despatched before he could caused the Master any harm. A Bullet at Balmain’s offered some incidental pleasures, centred chiefly on dramatist Marcy Kahan’s analysis of Coward’s character. While determined to pursue experiments, even if they involved a hair-raising amount of work – such as learning Present Laughter in French, Sinclair’s Coward betrayed certain insecurities. He could not do without the regular company of Cole Lesley (Tam Williams) and Lorne Lorraine (Eleanor Bron), both of whom were devoted to him. Neither of them could be described as his lovers; they were just his permanent companions. Coward’s true lover, the actor Graham Payn, was back in London performing on the stage, leaving Coward bereft of true affection. However, as a basically resourceful person, Coward amused himself by becoming involved in the murder mystery; it provided a pleasant diversion, even if it involed a certain degree of danger. Although a patriotic Englishman, Coward was also genuinely cosmopolitan; he could make himself at home in any part of the world he chose. Hence his fondness for visiting and performing in Paris. In later years he would make his permanent home as a tax-exile in Jamaica, preferring the sunshine and sea to the grey conformity of early 1960s England. This entertaining drama, punctuated with nostalgic extracts from Coward’s original song recordings, was directed by Ned Chaillet.

Death at the Desert Inn
Scene of one of Noel Coward’s greatest cabaret triumphs, is the setting for a “highly probable murder mystery”, complete with Judy Garland, a showgirl, a Broadway agent, an unlikely croupier, and a US Congressman. Another crime to be solved with the Master’s favourite weapon: wit. Director: Ned Chaillet Judy Garland: Belinda Lang Joe: Jake Broder Mercedes: Meredith MacNeil Nicholas: Peter Swander Floyd: Nathan Osgood Babyface: William Hootklns

A far-fetched tale focused around Noel Coward’s highly successful engagement at th Desert Inn, Las Vegas, in 1956 (which led to a new and lucrative career as a cabaret artist and character actor), Death at the Desert Inn had Coward (Malcolm Sinclair) investigating the death of a chorus-girl and becoming involved in a plot involving a would-be presidential candidate (Peter Swander) and a Jewish mafioso with the highly inappropriate moniker of Baby-Face Puccini (William Hootkins). To be honest, the whodunit side of the tale didn’t seem really significant; what was far more interesting was Kahan’s depiction of Coward’s sheer professionalism, as he overcame apparently insuperable odds (a dinner theatre audience more interested in eating, drinking and gambling than in the entertainment provided), and thereby reestablished himself as “The Master” on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite his apparent insouciance, Coward was genuinely concerned about his ability to fulfil the task; it was only down to sheer professionalism, coupled with a unique ability to work an audience, that his success was achieved. More importantly, the Las Vegas experience helped Coward understand the importance of being himself; unlike Britain, America in the mid-1950s seemed more tolerant of difference. No one expected him to tell jokes, or conform to any particular public persona (as was the case in Britain). For this reason Coward decided to quit Britain for good and become an expat, making his home in Jamaica and taking on character parts in Hollywood as well as British films. The director of this new play was Ned Chaillet.

Our Man In Jamaica
Biographical comedy, by Marcy Kahan. Reconciled to being out of fashion, Noel Coward is determined to finish his first novel, until his neighbour Ian Fleming sets him an espionage challenge. Producer/Director Gordon House Ian Fleming: Nicholas Farrell Marlene Dietrich: Alison Pettitt Shrafft: Kerry Shale

Another tall tale involving Noel Coward (Malcolm Sinclair), this time taking place in Jamaica at the time of Fidel Castro’s revolution during the late 1950s. This time Coward was involved in an a complex espionage scheme which involved him giving a speech on ‘the future of the London theatre’ to the Middlebrow Group, comprised mostly of aficionados and home workers, including secret code-words. No one could understand in the least what he was saying, but at least the speech provided an excuse for Ian Fleming (Nicholas Farrell) to show off his love of espionage. Contrast this attitude with that of Coward himself; in spite of his involvement in this scheme, he cared little now for a life of adventure, preferring instead to remain cooped up in his Jamaican eyrie, attended by his devoted secretary Lorne Lorraine (Eleanor Bron). Our Man in Jamaica was perhaps the most preposterous of the Noel Coward mystery series – a prolix pastiche of James Bond, with Coward keeping the stiffest of stiff upper lips, while being out-phlegmatized by the British agent Atkinson (Peter Donaldson, taking a well-earned rest from his Radio 4 announcing duties). In a sense the play was not really about Coward at all, but rather a meditation on Englishness – its virtues (sang-froid, calmness) and its vices (foolhardiness). The director was Gordon House.