On 2 December 1907, The Prodigal Son opened in the prestigious Coronet theatre in Southwark, London.
Hugh Montgomery played the elder son, Magnus ‘with rugged manliness’, as the London Standard put it. Herbert Hewetson made Oscar (the prodigal son of the title) seem attractive, but innately weak. And the temptress, Helga, was played by Margaret MURCH.
The story is based on the parable from the Bible – adapted, of course, for the modern audience of 1907. In the Bible, the elder son stays home and helps his father, while the younger son takes his inheritance and wastes it all in ‘riotous living’. He later regrets his actions deeply.
In the twentieth-century version, however, it begins in Iceland, where the younger brother marries his sibling’s sweetheart, Thora. He then leaves her to die in childbirth while he enjoys himself in Monte Carlo, but he too later deeply regrets his actions.
The Prodigal Son was written by Hall Caine, one of the most popular and well-paid authors of his day. The play moved from Douglas, Isle of Man via Drury Lane to Margaret’s performance in Southwark. She later reprised her role at the celebrated Northampton Opera House.
She was described as “charming as the temptress Helga”. Of course, a temptress would have to be ‘charming’, wouldn’t she, in order to be able to tempt?
Murch One-Name Study – http://murch.org