Noel Coward. Copyright: Jarvis and Ayres Productions.

The Better Half

BBC Radio 4 comedy drama. 1 episode in 2009. Stars Samuel West, Lisa Dillon and Federay Holmes.

The Better Half

A recently discovered Noel Coward play in which unhappy Alice encourages husband David and best friend Marion to form a liason

Comedy Drama
BBC Radio 4
Samuel West, Lisa Dillon and Federay Holmes
Noël Coward and Martin Jarvis
Martin Jarvis
Rosalind Ayres

Broadcast premiere of a comedy of marital manners, written by a young Noel Coward. Recently rediscovered, it was considered too racy for public performance in 1922.

In an unusual psychological ploy, an unhappy wife encourages her husband to leave her to pursue a happier connection with her friend. But does her apparent selflessness conceal a hidden agenda?

Written by Coward in 1921 when he was just 22 years old, the play was thought to have been lost until it was discovered among archives in the British Library in 2007.

Originally performed in private in 1922, Coward's play about marital disharmony was never published. The Lord Chamberlain, who then had to licence all plays for public performance, refused to grant it a licence as it was deemed too racy.

Martin Jarvis and the production team worked from copies of Coward's original manuscript, complete with the author's signature and penned changes.

Jarvis said: "We were privy to his thoughts, re-typings, even his crossings-out and inked-in rewrites. It was enormously helpful - we felt he was virtually with us in the studio."

Production Details

Production company
Laugh track

Broadcast details

First broadcast
Monday 25th May 2009 on BBC Radio 4 at 11:30am
Episode length
30 minutes