Mr. Bridger's Orphan by Marcy Kahan

Contact Us

Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 15 March 2013
Commissioned to mark the fortieth anniversary of Noel Coward's passng, Mr. Bridger's Orphan reunited the cast who performed the Noel Coward Mysteries some years ago: Malcolm Sinclair (Coward), Eleanor Bron (Lorn Loraine), and Tam Williams (Cole Lesley).
However this play depicted a very different side to 'The Master.'  While remaining very much aware of his public image as an actor, writer, director and socialite, Coward was also an extremely humane person who never forgot his modest background.  Mr. Bridger's Orphan told the story of how he assumed the presidency of the Actor's Orphanage, and spent some considerable time in raising funds to support it, as well as trying to improve the conditions for the children spending their entire lives there.  He befriended a young orphan called Peter (Finlay Christie), and gradually secured the boy's trust through a combination of loyalty and chicanery.  There were moments when the relationship seemed about to end, but Peter experienced a complete change of character: whereas once he was an emotional and social misfit, he transformed himself into a hardworking youngster.  Coward understood how the boy felt; as a child actor growing up in the theatre, he experienced much the same feelings.
Coward's kindness did not go unrewarded; some two decades later the two of them encountered one another on the set of The Italian Job (where Coward played Mr. Bridger).  Although Coward did not need to take the role - either financially or professionally - he felt he had to out of loyalty to Peter, who by now had established himself in his chosen career.
Although the play's flashback structure seemed a little awkward (one character in particular was there just to add a sceptical voice,), Mr. Bridger's Orphan told a morally uplifting tale about the importance of never giving up - especially when we are involved with those who are emotionally disturbed.  The director was Marilyn Imrie.