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Ben Travers Biography

(1886–1980), A Cuckoo in the Nest, Rookery Nook, Thark, Plunder, Turkey Time, Banana Ridge

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British playwright, born in Hendon, London, educated at Charterhouse School. He joined the family sugar business and worked for a time in Malaya, then turned to publishing, and began to write novels. One of these he adapted into A Cuckoo in the Nest (1925), the first of a long series of ‘Aldwych farces’, so-called after the London theatre in which they were staged. Others included Rookery Nook (1926), in which a pretty girl is given sanctuary from her Prussian stepfather by a newly married man and his cousin; Thark (1927); Plunder (1928); and Turkey Time (1931). Banana Ridge (1938), probably the best of Travers's later farces, is set in Malaya and involves a group of men presented with a boy who may be the son of one of them, and who proves irresistible to their wives. The laughter in these plays invariably derives from deceit, misunderstanding, and embarrassment, and usually occurs when strong and anarchic sexual impulses, somewhat camouflaged for the benefit of the censor, come into conflict with a morally inflexible society, often represented by an aggressive, puritanical woman. This tension was more open in The Bed before Yesterday, a comedy successfully produced in 1975, Travers's ninetieth year.

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