The Admirable Crichton
The Admirable Crichton is a comic stage play written in 1902 by J. M. Barrie
J. M. Barrie
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright...

. It was produced by Charles Frohman
Charles Frohman
Charles Frohman was an American theatrical producer. Frohman was producing plays by 1889 and acquired his first Broadway theatre by 1892. He discovered and promoted many stars of the American theatre....

 and opened at the Duke of York's Theatre
Duke of York's Theatre
The Duke of York's Theatre is a West End Theatre in St Martin's Lane, in the City of Westminster. It was built for Frank Wyatt and his wife, Violet Melnotte, who retained ownership of the theatre, until her death in 1935. It opened on 10 September 1892 as the Trafalgar Square Theatre, with Wedding...

 in London on 4 November 1902, running for an extremely successful 828 performances. It starred H. B. Irving
Harry Brodribb Irving
Harry Brodribb Irving , was a British stage actor and actor-manager; the eldest son of Sir Henry Irving and his wife Florence , and father of designer Laurence Irving and actress Elizabeth Irving....

 and Irene Vanbrugh
Irene Vanbrugh
Dame Irene Vanbrugh DBE , née Barnes, was an English actress. The daughter of a clergyman, Vanbrugh followed her elder sister Violet into the theatrical profession, and sustained a career for more than 50 years....

. In 1903, the play was produced on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 by Frohman
Frohman brothers
The Frohman brothers were important American Broadway theatre owners and theatrical producers who also owned and operated motion picture production companies.The brothers were:*Daniel Frohman *Gustave Frohman...

, starring William Gillette
William Gillette
William Hooker Gillette was an American actor, playwright and stage-manager in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who is best remembered today for portraying Sherlock Holmes....


A 1918 film adaptation
The Admirable Crichton
The Admirable Crichton is a comic stage play written in 1902 by J. M. Barrie. It was produced by Charles Frohman and opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in London on 4 November 1902, running for an extremely successful 828 performances. It starred H. B. Irving and Irene Vanbrugh...

 was directed by G. B. Samuelson
G. B. Samuelson
George Berthold Samuelson was one of the pioneers of British cinema.Born in Southport, England, Samuelson had an extensive film career and was the creator of Southall Studios, one of the earliest film production companies in the United Kingdom.He was the father of Sir Sydney Samuelson.-Selected...

. A 1957 film adaptation
The Admirable Crichton (film)
The Admirable Crichton is a 1957 British comedy film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Kenneth More, Diane Cilento, Sally Ann Howes and Cecil Parker. The film was based on J. M...

 starred Kenneth More
Kenneth More
Kenneth Gilbert More CBE was a highly successful English film actor during the post-World War II era and starred in many feature films, often in the role of an archetypal carefree and happy-go-lucky middle-class gentleman.-Early life:Kenneth More was born in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, the...

, Sally Ann Howes
Sally Ann Howes
Sally Ann Howes is a British actress and singer, who currently holds dual British-American citizenship. Her career on stage, screen and television has spanned over six decades...

 and Cecil Parker
Cecil Parker
Cecil Parker was an English character and comedy actor with a distinctive husky voice, who usually played supporting roles in his 91 films made between 1928 and 1969....

. The play was filmed twice for television, in 1950 and 1968. The play was also filmed in two more remote forms: the 1919
1919 in film
The year 1919 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*February 5 - Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith launch United Artists...

 Cecil B. De Mille silent Male and Female
Male and Female
Male and Female is a 1919 silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Its main themes are gender relations and social class. It is based on the J. M. Barrie play "The Admirable Crichton".-Plot:...

and the 1934
1934 in film
-Events:*January 26 - Samuel Goldwyn purchases the film rights to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the L. Frank Baum estate for $40,000.*February 19 - Bob Hope marries Dolores Reade...

 We're Not Dressing
We're Not Dressing
We're Not Dressing is a 1934 screwball comedy film starring Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, Burns and Allen, Ethel Merman, and Ray Milland. Based on the 1902 J. M. Barrie play, The Admirable Crichton, the movie was directed by Norman Taurog.-Synopsis:...

a Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation....

 vehicle. In 2011, it was adapted as a Saturday Play
Saturday Play
The Saturday Play is a regular feature on BBC Radio 4 and is described as "Thrillers, mysteries, love stories and detective fiction, as well as an occasional special series."The Saturday Play is part of the BBC's series...

 for BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

, starring Russell Tovey
Russell Tovey
Russell George Tovey is an English actor with numerous television, film and stage credits. Tovey is best known for playing the role of werewolf George Sands in the BBC's supernatural drama Being Human which started in 2008...

 as Chrichton.

Roles and opening night cast list

  • Lady Mary Lasenby, Irene Vanbrugh
    Irene Vanbrugh
    Dame Irene Vanbrugh DBE , née Barnes, was an English actress. The daughter of a clergyman, Vanbrugh followed her elder sister Violet into the theatrical profession, and sustained a career for more than 50 years....

  • Crichton - The Butler, H. B. Irving
    Harry Brodribb Irving
    Harry Brodribb Irving , was a British stage actor and actor-manager; the eldest son of Sir Henry Irving and his wife Florence , and father of designer Laurence Irving and actress Elizabeth Irving....

  • The Earl of Loam, Henry Kemble
    Henry Kemble
    Henry Kemble was a British actor. A member of the famed Kemble family, he was the grandson of Charles Kemble. He was educated at Maze Hill School Greenwich, King's College School and King's College London....

  • Lady Catherine Lasenby, Sybil Carlisle
  • Lady Agatha Lasenby, Muriel Beaumont
    Muriel Beaumont
    Muriel Beaumont, Lady du Maurier was an English stage actress. She was the wife of the actor Gerald du Maurier and mother of the writer Daphne du Maurier. She retired from the stage in 1910.-Biography:...

  • Ernest Woolley - Lord Loam's nephew, Gerald du Maurier
    Gerald du Maurier
    Sir Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier was an English actor and manager. He was the son of the writer George du Maurier and brother of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. In 1902, he married the actress Muriel Beaumont with whom he had three daughters: Angela du Maurier , Daphne du Maurier and Jeanne...

  • Tweeny - A between maid
    Between maid
    A between maid is a female junior servant in a large household with many staff...

    , Pattie Brown
  • Naval Officer - J. C. Buckstone
    J. C. Buckstone
    John Copeland Buckstone was an English stage and film actor of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, who was most famous for his 1901 stage play Scrooge, which was the basis for the first film version of A Christmas Carol in the same year...


Act One is set in Loam Hall, the household of Lord Loam, a British peer, Crichton being his butler
A butler is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its...

. Loam considers the class divisions in British society to be artificial. He promotes his views during tea-parties where servants mingle with his aristocratic guests, to the embarrassment of all. Crichton particularly disapproves, considering the class system to be "the natural outcome of a civilised society".
At the beginning of Act Two, Loam, his family and friends, and Crichton are shipwrecked on a deserted tropical island. The resourceful Crichton is the only one of the party with any practical knowledge, and he assumes, initially with reluctance, the position of leader. This role begins to take on sinister tones when he starts training Ernest, one of the young aristocrats with them, to break a liking for laboured epigram
An epigram is a brief, interesting, usually memorable and sometimes surprising statement. Derived from the epigramma "inscription" from ἐπιγράφειν epigraphein "to write on inscribe", this literary device has been employed for over two millennia....

s by putting his head in a bucket of water whenever he makes one. Crichton's social betters at first resist his growing influence and go their separate ways, but in a pivotal scene they return, showing their acquiescence by accepting the food Crichton alone has been able to find and cook.

Act Three reveals the island two years later. Crichton has civilised the island with farming and house building and now, called "the Guv.", is waited on with the trappings and privileges of power, just as his master had been in Britain. Lady Mary, Loam's daughter, falls in love with him, forgetting her engagement to Lord Brocklehurst at home. Just as she and Crichton are about to be married by a clergyman who was shipwrecked with them, the sound of a ship's gun is heard. After a moment's temptation not to reveal their whereabouts, Crichton makes the conventionally decent choice and launches a signal. As the rescuers greet the castaways, he resumes his status as butler.

Act Four (subtitled "The Other Island") is set back at Loam Hall, where the status quo ante
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

 has returned uneasily. The Loams and their friends are embarrassed by Crichton's presence, since Ernest has published a false account of events on the island, presenting himself and Lord Loam in key roles. Lady Brocklehurst, Lord Brocklehurst's mother, quizzes the family and servants about events on the island, suspecting that Lady Mary may have been unfaithful to Lord Brocklehurst. The household evades these questions, except for a final one when Lady Mary reacts with shock - "Oh no, impossible..." - to the suggestion that Crichton might become butler at her married household. To protect her, Crichton explains the impossibility is due to his leaving service, and the play ends with his and Lady Mary's regretful final parting.


The play deals with serious class issues that were controversial at the time, but does not seriously question the status quo. Barrie had considered a more controversial resolution - particularly an upbeat ending with Crichton and Lady Mary continuing their relationship - but decided "the stalls wouldn't stand it".


Barrie took the title from the sobriquet
A sobriquet is a nickname, sometimes assumed, but often given by another. It is usually a familiar name, distinct from a pseudonym assumed as a disguise, but a nickname which is familiar enough such that it can be used in place of a real name without the need of explanation...

 of a fellow Scot
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, the polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 James Crichton
James Crichton
James Crichton, known as the Admirable Crichton , was a Scottish polymath noted for his extraordinary accomplishments in languages, the arts, and sciences before his killing when aged 21.-Life:...

, a 16th-century genius and athlete. The epigram-loving Ernest is probably a caricature of the title character in Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

's The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at St. James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae in order to escape burdensome social obligations...

. The plot may derive from Robinson's Eiland, an 1896 German play by Ludwig Fulda
Ludwig Fulda
thumb|200px|Ludwig FuldaLudwig Anton Salomon Fulda was a German writer and a poet with a strong social commitment.-Biography:...

,. In this, "a satire upon modern super-culture in its relation to primal nature", a group of Berlin officials (including a capitalist, a professor and a journalist) are shipwrecked on an island, where a secretary, Arnold, becomes the natural leader of the group. The contemporary critic Arthur Bingham Walkley
Arthur Bingham Walkley
Arthur Bingham Walkley was an English dramatic critic, born in Bristol, and educated at Balliol and Corpus Christi colleges, Oxford. He held important positions in the British postal service, but it was by his dramatic criticism that he became known over the English-speaking world to all...

, however, viewed the connection as merely a rumour: "I feel quite indifferent as to its accuracy of fact".

Influence on popular culture

Kryten is a fictional character in the British science fiction situation comedy Red Dwarf. Kryten's registration code on Red Dwarf is "Kryten additional 001". The name Kryten is a reference to the head butler in the J.M...

, the robot butler from the British sitcom Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf is a British comedy franchise which primarily comprises eight series of a television science fiction sitcom that aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999 and Dave from 2009–present. It gained cult following. It was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, who also wrote the first six series...

, takes his name from the title character of Barrie's play.

In The Germans
The Germans
"The Germans" is the sixth episode of the BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers. It is remembered for its line "Don't mention the war" and Cleese's silly walk when he is impersonating Adolf Hitler.-Plot:...

, an episode of British sitcom Fawlty Towers
Fawlty Towers
Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom produced by BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975. Twelve television program episodes were produced . The show was written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, both of whom played major characters...

, Basil Fawlty
Basil Fawlty
Basil Fawlty is the main character of the British sitcom Fawlty Towers, played by John Cleese. The character is often thought of as an iconic British comedy character, and has been deemed unforgettable despite only a dozen half-hour episodes ever being made....

 sarcastically says "Oh, it's the Admirable Crichton" on Manuel's belated arrival.

External links

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