20th Century Dramatists and Composers

James Bridie (Osborne Henry Mavor) 1888–1951

James Bridie was a Scottish playwright, screenwriter and surgeon. He is now considered to be a founding father of modern Scottish theatre, following his involvement with the founding of both the Citizens Theatre and Scotland's first college of drama, now known as The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, then he served as a medical officer during World War I in France and Mesopotamia. With the success of his comedies in London, Bridie became a full-time writer in 1938.

Born in Pollokshields, Glasgow. James Bridie was the non de plume of Dr. Henry Osbourne Mavor. Bridie assumed this pen name as he did not want his theatrical work to affect his position as a practicing doctor. Previously he had used the pen name of Mary Henderson, but adopted the name James Bridie in the late 1920s.

Towards the end of the 40s, Bridie used another name, J. P. Kellock, when he co-wrote 'The Tintock Cup' with George Munro. Although Bridie studied medicine at Glasgow University, he developed an interest in theatre, writing critical reviews and was a friend of Alfred Wareing who founded the Glasgow Repertory Theatre.

He had plays performed by the Scottish National Players but it was The Anatomist which really began his writing career. He also wrote a number of pantomimes and plays for radio.  Towards the end of his life, he was an adviser to the Edinburgh Festival.

[Text based, in part, on 'Electric Scotland' and the Scottish Theatre Archive.]

Links with Ayrshire:

Bridie was a founder of the Citizen's Theatre in Glasgow where many of his post war works saw their first performances. In Ayr, the Compass Club performed Mr Bolfry at the Civic Theatre in 1955.


Graduation Photograph, Osborne Henry Mavor, 1913. University of Glasgow private Collection. Photographer unknown.   Magnify   [Image in the public domain]

Robert Kemp (1908-1967)

Robert Kemp was born at Longhope in the Orkney Islands, where his father was the minister. Educated at Robert Gordon's College and the University of Aberdeen, he lived in London and then in Edinburgh.

In 1948, working with Tyrone Guthrie, he staged a revival of Scotland's first Scottish play, David Lyndsay’s Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis and, also in 1948, he coined the phrase 'Edinburgh Festival Fringe'. 

Kemp translated Moliere's L'Ecolc des Femmes into broad Scots; Let Wives Tak Tent wqs written in strong, idiomatic Scots prose and transported the action to the Canongate in Edinburgh in the late seventeenth century.   Written for the Scottish actor Duncan Macrae, who played the central character of Oliphant, the Laird of Stumpie.    The play was first performed at the Gateway Theatre in Edinburgh in 1948, at the Citizens in Glasgow later the same year, and at the Embassy Theatre in London the following year. Since then there have been many revivals, notably by the Gateway Company at the 1961 Edinburgh Festival.

Links with Ayrshire


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The Ugly Sister of M.Barrault

When, some five years ago, Dr. Mavor (James Bridie) and his friends founded the Glasgow Citizens Theatre it was their aim, fervently approved by the native audience, that it should cradle a National Drama. .  .  .Their theatre would be, we hoped, Scottish; we knew it would be Europe, Mr. John Casson's production of Mr. Robert Kemp's translation into broad Scots of L'Ecolc des Femmes, Let Wives Tak Tent (EMBASSY) is an entertainment that of its nature marks the success attained by this splendid venture.






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