Writer brings a bit of Soho to Norwich festival

13:10 18 October 2012

Julian Maclaren-Ross (left) in 1940. He

Julian Maclaren-Ross (left) in 1940. He's on the left. Pictured on the right is C.K. Jaeger, another novelist and screenwriter. The little girl is Jaeger's daughter, Karel. The image should be marked "copyright: the Estate of C.K. Jaeger".

Copyright: the Estate of C.K. Jaeger

From a 1950s radio studio to the stage of a Norwich arts festival – a Norwich based-writer is bringing the work of bohemian Soho dandy Julian Maclaren-Ross to the city this autumn.

The Hostry Festival is taking place at Norwich Cathedral from October 26 to November 4 and among the line-up is a rehearsed reading of Maclaren-Ross’ A Visit to the Villa Edouard VII, first broadcast by the BBC in 1956.

It was the idea of writer Paul Willetts, who has written a biography of Maclaren-Ross, to include the show in the festival. He describes Maclaren-Ross, who died in 1964, as having lived a “fascinatingly wild” life while also creating an impressive body of writing that was fresh, accessible, eloquent and amusing yet tinged with melancholy.

Among Maclaren-Ross’ work was a series of radio dramas – and A Visit to the Villa Edouard VII was one.

Mr Willetts said: “He did all sorts of different writing, and had a really successful sideline in the 1950s and 60s writing radio drama, and he would appear in them too.”

He said the A Visit to the Villa Edouard VII production coming to Norwich had been performed in London earlier this year to mark the centenary of Maclaren-Ross’ birth. It has been directed by actor Callum Coates, who recently appeared at the National Theatre in The Doctor’s Dilemma and has appeared in The 39 Steps in the West End, and who is also playing the role of Maclaren-Ross.

Mr Willetts said the play was based on a memoir about Maclaren-Ross’ cosmopolitan upbringing in the south of France, specifically about a trip he made to meet Frank Harris, a friend of Oscar Wilde, and it also includes reminiscences of his father’s encounter with Oscar Wilde.

He said: “Set on the French Riviera during the late 1920s, Maclaren-Ross’ play focuses on a lunch party hosted by the elderly but notorious writer, Frank Harris. It’s a witty, touching and characteristically stylish coming-of-age memoir that harks back to the raffish world of Harris’s great friend, Oscar Wilde.”

Mr Willetts’ biography of Maclaren-Ross’s life is called Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia, and he has also edited collections of Maclaren-Ross’ work. One of Mr Willetts’ other books, Members Only, about the “King of Soho” Paul Raymond, is being made into a film starring Anna Friel and Steve Coogan.

A Visit to the Villa Edouard VII is being performed in a double bill with Voices: Moments from the Lives of Others on Saturday, October 27 from 7pm at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry. Tickets £10. To book call on 01603 218450.

For more details visit

Tickets can be bought at the cathedral shop or on 01603 218450.


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