Obituary: Raymond Marriott

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The Independent Online
Raymond Bowler Marriott, journalist, born Sale Cheshire 8 November 1911, died 31 December 1992.

RAYMOND MARRIOTT was a familiar figure in the London theatre of the post-war years. He was principal drama critic of the Stage for 30 years and previously he represented the Era.

On first nights he would be seen talking in the intervals; if you eavesdropped you would be sure to hear something of interest. He had an easy conversational manner; although there was nothing flamboyant about him - rather the reverse - he had known the literary and theatrical celebrities of the day and would make them spring to life as he remembered them.

Marriott was born and brought up in Sale, Cheshire; his father was a keen naturalist who contributed articles on his subject to the Manchester Guardian. Raymond's passion for the theatre was fostered when the stars of the Twenties and Thirties - Martin Harvey, Matheson Lang and others - came to Manchester on tour.

He began his journalistic career on the Manchester edition of the Daily Express. For his first trip to London he brought a return ticket but on his arrival he knew at once he wanted to stay so he threw away the return half. In London he enjoyed a precarious Bohemian existence living in cheap lodgings which were easily available in those pre-war days. He moved frequently so that he got to know different neighbourhoods, paying the rent with the guineas he earned as a freelance for newspapers and magazines.

When he recalled the interviews in which he specialised - he had an excellent memory - he proved to be an accomplished raconteur. His stories enlivened the journeys to the theatres in Stratford and Chichester. In a hired car we shared with him we would draw him out to talk of his Grub Street days. Sadly, he never wrote his memoirs, though probably they would have diminished on paper.

Once he met Shaw in the street and asked him for an autograph. Shaw obliged and in years to come would feed him with news items about himself knowing that they would earn Marriott small sums. Somerset Maugham invited him to stay at the Villa Mauresque; Queen Marie of Romania asked him to tea at the Ritz; Baroness Orczy told him how she got the idea for the Scarlet Pimpernel while waiting for a train. When Pirandello came to London, he granted an interview. Raymond called on the Nijinskys ('He once danced for me'), Lord Alfred Douglas, GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc ('I never got much out of him'), Arthur Machem, and many others. We seldom discovered a celebrity he did not know, but this was not name-dropping - just part of his working life and his fascination with theirs.

After the war, during which he was a conscientous objector, Marriott concentrated on dramatic criticism. The initials RBM in the Stage became associated with notices that were fair, outspoken but never cruel. Having seen all the 'greats' of his time, he was a good judge of acting. Among the classics he thought highly of Donald Wolfit's Lear and among modern dramatists John Osborne was a particular favourite.

His only book, a novel, The Blazing Tower, was regarded when it was published as avant garde.