Premiere for Greene's unknown brothel play

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The Independent Culture

An unpublished and virtually unknown play by the writer Graham Greene, which he had once hoped would star the breathy beauty Jane Birkin, is to receive its world premiere this month.

An unpublished and virtually unknown play by the writer Graham Greene, which he had once hoped would star the breathy beauty Jane Birkin, is to receive its world premiere this month.

Nine years after the author's death, A House of Reputation is to be performed as the highlight of a four-day festival in his home town of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, after a copy of the script was discovered in archives in the United States.

Greene wrote the play in the last years of his life. It tells the story of a brothel in a mythical South American police state. It has never been performed, despite the efforts of the director Bryan Forbes, a friend of the author.

Members of the Greene family have sanctioned the rehearsed reading, on 30 September in the hall of the author's old school, now known as Berkhamsted Collegiate. Nicholas Dennys, the late writer's nephew, said: "We're delighted it is going to be performed, it's great."

Although the script was known to the family, not even distinguished scholars such as Professor Norman Sherry, a Greene biographer, had seen it. He has asked to see the copy the festival secured from the Burns Library in Boston College, Massachusetts, which holds a number of Greene's papers.

The festival director, Roger Watkins, was alerted to its existence by a researcher who had visited the Boston archive and mentioned it when he attended the first Berkhamsted festival three years ago. It has taken the past two years to arrange the reading.

The script is dated November 1986, but was possibly started much earlier. Greene found writing difficult and often returned to writings begun years before. Amanda Saunders, who worked for her uncle in his final years, said he had remained hopeful to the end that A House of Reputation would be staged. He had even decided that the actress Jane Birkin, famous for her controversial duet, Je t'aime, with Serge Gainsbourg, was ideal for one of the leads.

"Graham was very keen for it to be put on," she said. "It has a huge cast which was a stumbling block, but it is an interesting play. Something that has never been seen before is exciting. This is very rare."

Another copy of the script was sent by Greene to Bryan Forbes, the director of films including Whistle Down The Wind and The L-Shaped Room, and a former neighbour who had become a close friend. Forbes, who directed the last British production of Greene's The Living Room, said he had been unable to interest theatre impresarios with the play. "It's more a fault of theirs than Graham Greene's," he said. "But everything he wrote was intellectual and it's quite difficult to get an intellectual play on. It's not Jeffrey Archer.

"You never know, maybe this reading may whet somebody's appetite. Now the Royal Court is back in business in Sloane Square, I might try them."

The reading is being performed by amateurs with professional direction, after festival organisers were unable to get financial backing for a full professional staging.

Roger Watkins said although Greene was best known for his novels, he had written a number of plays. Some, such as The Living Room, had been successful in the West End.

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