At the close of 1947, Cicely Courtneidge took her production of "Under The Counter" to tour Australia and New Zealand. The tour lasted for a year and she was accompanied at all times by her leading man, Thorley Walters. What was the relationship between the pair? This extended short story explores this, using Cicely's autobiography and contemporary newspaper reports as a string of clues.
She said a headmistress style goodnight to each of the girls as they filed past, but as the surfing girl took her leave Cicely stopped her with a touch of the shoulder.
“A word, please.” She indicated that the girl should follow her into her own dressing room. The door was closed behind them and Cicely began immediately. “I absolutely forbid fraternisation between the lead cast and the supporting cast and dancers. There will be no days at the beach with Mr Walters. Do you understand?” Cicely’s manicured fingers, which had been thrust in the face of the young girl dropped to her hips as she awaited response. She was almost holding herself upright. She was unconcerned about what the girl’s response might be. There were hundreds of dancers in Sydney anyway.
The girl, first incredulous, then rebellious, thought before she finally spoke.
“But Thor…Mr Walters…wants to learn how to surf, that’s all. My brother will teach him, not me…it’s all quite respectable, I assure you Miss Courtneidge.”
“Oh no, no, no. I might be an old woman in your green little eyes, but I was on stage when I was a teenager. I know exactly what you’re up to and I forbid it. If I catch you approaching any of the male members of the cast again you will be dismissed. I’m giving you a second chance to prove that you are not predatory, merely idiotic. You will tell Mr Walters that your brother is unable to give him lessons after all – you can make up your own reason why. Do you understand?”
The girl reached for the door handle, her cheeks flamed pink. “Yes, Miss Courtneidge.” Should have been her response. Things could have carried on as before. But she wasn’t the placid type. “Stick your second chance up your fat backside!” was what she actually hissed in return. She may have tossed an “old bag” over her shoulder as she made her way out, but Cicely couldn’t be sure.
|A Scene from "Under the Counter"|