Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Dame, a Bard, and a Danish Prince

I came across this wonderful image this week, of Ngaio Marsh backstage during a production of Hamlet.

It was taken in the 1930s in Christchurch by William Baverstock, and the actual physical photograph is held in Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, having been purchased with a lottery grant in 1999.

I think it's a striking image, and a different look at Dame Ngaio, (as she would later become, thanks to her tireless passion and inspiring involvement with theatre), than many of the other photographs floating around the place.

Ngaio, who was likely in her early to mid 30s when the photo was taken, was playing the role of Hamlet in this production. She loved Shakespeare, and was largely responsible for bringing the Bard back to the professional stage in New Zealand. Theatre was perhaps the greatest of her three loves (the others being painting and detective fiction).

Her knowledge of and passion for the stage comes through strongly in several of her Inspector Alleyn tales, both in terms of murder mysteries set in and around both professional and amateur theatre, and her skill with dialogue, setting, and characterisation (particularly of her many supporting characters - not just the central detective - perhaps owes some debt to that background).

Regardless, it's a nice look behind the curtain at one of the greats of crime writing.

Comments welcome.

1 comment:

  1. This is one reason I love Ngaio Marsh's mysteries -- her characters are fully developed, speaking and acting as real people. They contributed to the believability of the story, and help me lose myself in it. No doubt her theatrical upbringing contributed to the creation of her characters, but she had to have the talent to develop it. I'd not seen this photo of her, so thank you for posting it. Jo H