“The Little Damozel”

Ernest Thesiger as Franz Pepo

Wyndham’s Theatre, London

October 21, 1909

Command Performance Windsor Castle

December 3, 1909

Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London

December 27, 1909


“[Charles] Hawtrey engaged me provisionally to play the part of a musician in ‘The Little Damozel,’ and at the first rehearsal the author said, ‘I hear you are a pianist.  I want you to play the quartette from ‘Rigoletto,’ and you can sing bits of it as you play.’  Knowing that I could never play anything of the kind I said firmly that I didn’t think ‘Rigoletto’ was at all the sort of music that ‘Franz’ would play. Slightly taken aback, Hoffe asked me what I would suggest.  I said a little light Chansonette would be more appropriate, and added that I would look out for one.  On the way back from the rehearsal I stopped at a bookshop and bought ’Les Cent Meilleurs Poemes,’ opened it at random and selected a verse of Victor Hugo’s beginning ‘Pale Etoile du soir.’  The moment I got home I sat down at the piano and composed a song - in the only key in which I could play, and having a compass of only five notes - all that was left of my childish three octaves.  I sang it with great success at the next rehearsal and it became a permanent feature of the play, insomuch that I used to get letters asking for the name of the composer and whether the song was published.  I allowed my hair to grow rather long and with ‘a little help from others,’ as Algie says in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ persuaded it to curl so as to look like the coiffure of my friend Percy Grainger, whom I was said, in a slight way, to resemble.  At the dress rehearsal Frank Curzon shouted at Willie Clarkson that the wig that he had made for me was a disgrace, but after I had shaken my leonine mane and exonerated the great perruquier, I was allowed to continue to look as I imagined musicians to look.”

Ernest Thesiger, Practically True

“The cast of ‘The Little Damozel’ was made further interesting by the appearance of Mr. Ernest Thesiger, who has taken a regular place in the theatrical world.  Hitherto Mr. Thesiger, a cousin of Lord Chelmsford, has been known as an enthusiastic amateur who pranced about in pageants or at fancy-dress balls.  That he should have ridden his hobby-horse as far as Windsor in so short a time promises well for his future.”

The Sketch, December 15, 1909

Self-portrait in the role of Franz Pepo, by Ernest Thesiger, 1909


This self-portrait depicts Thesiger in the role of Franz Pepo when he appeared on October 21, 1909 at the Wyndham Theatre.  Courtesy of Mark Bills.

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, January 22, 1910