Ngaio Marsh interview, 1954

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D SERIES - Ngaio Marsh interview recorded as part of the ‘Portrait From Life’ programme but not included in final programme. She describes her home in the suburb of Cashmere and her childhood attempts at staging plays with the help of her family and later on school plays.

[sa-d-00530-04-pm] Recording begins, “My aunt’s house on the Cashmere Hills was a large, old fashioned one in the ugly but spacious colonial, Edwardian style. It was here in the bay window of the dining room that at the age of ten I produced my first play…”. Marsh describes how she “perpetually meddled with theatricals” and pressed her younger cousins into service on a home crafted stage. Marsh recalls a soliloquy from one such play, ‘Cinderella’ in which she played the fairy god mother under the serious and critical attention of her parents.

Her mother chose raising a family over a career on stage however "burst the seams" in many amateur productions she appeared in. Marsh recalls her mother as her severest critic, ready to give her concentrated feedback on the direction of performances, written word or drawings.

As a result Marsh "perpetually meddled in with theatricals" at school
by writing and producing "fairy plays" for the lower girls' school term break-ups, performing as villans in plays written by the French master and being involved in productions of Tennyson and the Greek trajedies during presentations. Marsh believes these productions would have distressed her discerning parents.

When she left school she became an art student, lending her hand to still- life, figure drawing and landscapes along with other budding young painters. Marsh names a few students that later became sucessful artists; Eve Poulson, Jimmy Cook, Olivier Spencer-Bower and Phyliss Sharp [recording stops abruptly at 00:04:30].

'Portrait From Life', Part 2 - rejected version [sa-d-00530-01-s02-pm]
Ngāio Marsh begins, “We have a National Orchestra, we have all sorts of things in the way of arts that are supported by the state; bursaries, scholarships…” Marsh continues to emphasise the need for a national grant to establish a flesh and blood theatre New Zealand – as opposed to the repertory theatres which are, she believes, more socially driven.

Theatre and Detective Fiction is what Ngaio Marsh is best known for. After school Marsh began art school all the while “frantic about the theatre” during which time she wrote her first play, ‘The Medallion’. After reading the play Alan Wilkie asked Marsh to join his Shakespeare company which she did until they moved overseas. Promising her parents that she would not yet move overseas Marsh began producing musical shows for ‘Unlimited Charities’ that toured the country.

In 1928 Marsh went to England and has to-ed and fro-ed over the years ever since. After successfully selling goods with her friend, Nelly Rhodes for a Charity Bizarre and then for themselves on a short-term lease, the pair set-up shop in Brompton Road, London offering interior house decoration. Now, in 1954 she intends to return to England to brush up on what’s going on in the world.

Announcer Jocelyn Hollis concludes the programme with, “We’ve called this programme ‘A Portrait of Ngaio Marsh but it’s really ‘A Portrait of Ngaio Marsh at Work’ because you see Ngaio Marsh doesn’t talk about herself, she talks about what she does, not what she is, and that in itself gives you a portrait of Ngaio Marsh.”

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Year 1954

Reference number 32263

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits Marsh, Ngaio, 1895-1982, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Hollis, Jocelyn, Announcer

Duration 00:04:40

Date 1954