NCP’s first ever production – The Love of Four Colonels – which was staged at the Kenya National Theatre from 16-24 November 1956, is now online. All available materials associated with this production have been digitised and uploaded to the NCP website.

Written by Peter Ustinov, the play is an adult fairy tale where four colonels representing America, France, Russia and England are taken to a magical castle by two fairies, one wicked, the other good. Based in part on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, with sections of blank verse worth of Shakespeare himself, The Love of Four Colonels is Ustinov at his most outrageous and his wickedly funniest.

In the conference room of a four-power zone in Germany, the four Colonels are apparently getting nowhere with their negotiations except deeper into a mess of red tape.  Enter a man called the ‘Wicked Fairy’ and what follows is a dream-like look at their ideals and the inordinate lengths that some will go to claim what they see as rightfully theirs.

At the castle they discover The Sleeping Beauty. Each of our national characters (personified by the colonels) sees her as his own particular ideal – The Frenchman as an 18th Century lass of the Boulevards, the Russian as a flaxen-haired figure out of Chekhov, the Englishman as something virginally Elizabethan, the American as a moll in an all-night dive. Each man gets a chance to waken and then to claim her, but each fails, surrendering the illusion that he had long cherished.

The play was produced by Denis Patience and the four colonels were played by –

  • (English)      John Ebdon
  • (American)   Dick Herbine
  • (French)       Derek Bunker
  • (Russian)     Rurik Ronsky

Donald Whittle played the Wicked Fairy and Patricia Reynolds the Good Fairy.

The play was well received by the local drama critics, one of whom described it as ‘faultless.’

Leave a comment