“N.C. Hunter’s beautiful, shamefully neglected comedy was performed only once in London in 1951, and receives its American premiere here,” wrote The New Yorker of Mint Theater’s A PICTURE OF AUTUMN. “It’s about an aging, once prosperous family living in an aging, once grand manor, and the echoes of Chekhov are unmistakable, if subdued and Anglicized. It’s a big, generous play, exquisitely written, both funny and touching.” 1

A PICTURE OF AUTUMN made its debut on February 11, 1951 in a one-night ‘try-out’ performance presented by the Repertory Players, at the Duke of York’s Theatre on London’s West End. Despite promising reviews, the play was never picked up. Instead, Hunter enjoyed great success with his plays Waters of the Moon, A Day by the Sea and A Touch of the Sun, which dominated the West End throughout the fifties. Meanwhile, A PICTURE OF AUTUMN gathered dust until our acclaimed production—the play’s first in over 60 years.

A PICTURE OF AUTUMN is impressive in every way,” wrote Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “and the Mint’s staging, directed with quiet intelligence by Gus Kaikkonen and acted by a top-drawer ensemble cast, is so strong that in a perfect world it would trigger a general revival of interest in Mr. Hunter’s work.” 2

N.C. HUNTER (1908-1971) was one of the leading English dramatists of the 1950s and early 1960s. As theatrical revolution—spearheaded by John Osborne and his school of “angry young men”—exploded around him, Hunter kept his head down and provided moving portraits of a people questioning their own purpose in chaotic post-war England.

Norman Charles Hunter was born on September 18, 1908 in Derbyshire. Originally intending to follow in the footsteps of his father, a decorated Lieutenant Colonel, Hunter was educated at the Royal Military College. In 1930 he was commissioned in the Dragoon Guards but relinquished his position three years later, deciding to devote his life to literary pursuits. He found a day job on the staff of the BBC and
began writing. In the years prior to the outbreak of World War II, Hunter produced six plays and four novels. His early plays showed the promise of a true writer with a strong sense of craftsmanship.

Hunter returned to playwrighting in 1947 after having served with the Royal Artillery during the war. Over the next four years, Hunter continued to develop his craft, eventually acquiring a reputation as the “English Chekhov”. Waters of the Moon brought Hunter to prominence. It was followed by A Day by the Sea, which opened in 1953 and ran for 386 performances starring Dame Sybil Thorndike, Irene Worth, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson. In New York, A Day by the Sea opened in 1955 with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn headlining the cast, Hunter’s only Broadway production.

In reviewing A Day by the Sea, Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called Hunter “a writer with a lot of charm, skill and taste” and went on to acknowledge that

To call a playwright ‘Chekhovian’ today is to utter opprobrium and to consign him to the doghouse. For ‘Chekhovian’ has become a synonym for preciousness and languor… But the word is not applied to him maliciously in this column. For he is a reflective writer in his own right. The dawdling pace, the improvised narrative, the characterizations of people who associate but never blend, the random remarks—are methods that become him…. they result in a subtle, civilized comedy.

Hunter’s restrained naturalism fell out of fashion as playwrights like Joe Orton introduced flamboyance and controversy into the British theatre. In Great Writers of the English Language, William Tydeman praises Hunter’s “careful characterizations and finely orchestrated dialogue, his immaculate control of exposition and dénouement, his overall craftsmanship,” and predicts that “Hunter’s work may
yet receive that fuller appraisal its quality still merits.”

By Maya Cantu



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Keri Walsh is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Fordham University in New York City. She specializes in Twentieth Century Literature, Theatre and Film. She is the editor of The Letters of Sylvia Beach (Columbia University Press, 2010) and the author of the forthcoming volume Mickey Rourke in the British Film Institute’s new “Film Stars” series. She is currently at work on two projects: an edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners and a book-length study called Acting Like a Hustler: Method Acting, Gender, and the Hollywood Film. At Fordham she teaches courses on Oscar Wilde, Modern Irish Drama, and Modernism and Cinema.

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As an educator, speaker, coach, family consultant, professional organizer and author, Barbara has helped seniors, their loved ones and entire communities rethink the moving process. Known as the “Diva of Downsizing” and “The Yoda of Moving”, Barbara is an expert in the areas of the psychology of moving and managing senior moves. Dr. Perman is the Founder & President, Moving Mentor, Inc. Dr. Perman holds a Master’s Degree from Oxford University and a Doctorate in Psychology from Edinburgh University in Scotland.

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Paula Span writes the “New Old Age Blog” for The New York Times. As a journalist, Span spent half her career at The Washington Post, the other half was devoted to freelancing for a raft of publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and its magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Magazine, and others. Span teaches at the Columbia Journalism School.