Peter Smart’s Confessions

Paul Bailey

The eponymous hero of Peter Smart’s Confessions, an unhappy husband and none-too-successful actor, is writing after a suicide attempt. Peter’s mother, as an actor friend enthusiastically points out, is a comic monster: ‘If you put her in a book – as they say – no one would believe her… Only Wagner could do her justice.’ She’s matched by the larger-than-life eccentric, F. Leonard Cottle, randy retired doctor and author of ‘With Stethoscope and Scalpel’, who employs Peter’s mother as housekeeper after her husband dies. Cottle introduces the boy Peter to the facts of life.

There are some bravura-satirical set pieces on playwrights, players and critics: the staging and reception of a ‘revolutionary’ production of Hamlet based on the premise that he was suffering from congenital syphilis, a pointed parody of Eliot’s The Cocktail Party.