Jen Groyce was an ‘actress’s actress’. Terribly thin and awfully busy, she lived her life entertaining the many visitors to London’s West End Theatre district, both on the stage where she dazzled and at her smart apartment. A rare talent and a national treasure, she also toured abroad entertaining the troups during times of conflict. Recently her diaries (hitherto unpublished) were discovered under a hedge fund in Surrey. This week Fifilab publishes the first excerpts from those diaries in a worldwide exclusive.
July 4th 194-
We were billeted overnight at the Colonel’s villa near the capital. I had heard he was a difficult man – somewhat pompous and arrogant, but he was a charming host and very attentive. The rooms were simply furnished with rugs and silks and after a good night’s sleep, we ate a simple breakfast of fruit, nuts, honey, milk and a small suckling pig which had been butterfly roasted on the grill (a flying butter pig, quipped the colonel!).
July 9th 194-
The days sometimes seem to blur together as we move from town to town. Today we had to travel by jeep across the sands. As we got into the car, Binty warned me about the ‘bone shaker’. I had assumed he meant the vehicle, with its primitive suspension, but actually it was the name of a new cocktail that he had devised and mixed for us en route. It was well named, my Ophelia was a little free with her herbs tonight – I may have added Sage instead of Rosemary to the speech, but I don’t think anyone noticed – or cared.
July 13th 194-
The lads are just so grateful to have us out here and it really warms the soul to know one is doing just a little bit of good and brightening their day. Who knows what horrors they may be subjected to in the weeks and months ahead? I spoke to one young man today who had his hair quite blown off by a strong gust of wind – there are so few buildings left to protect one from the elements, which is why I assume so many of the army personnel are living in large tents.
London. July 23 194-
So good to be back home and back into the work. We open in two weeks with the new review and I have two new pieces that I have penned for the show. Had quite a row with D about one of them who says I should not waste my talent in what he calls, ‘review trash’ but should strive out alone. Dare I? Henry would be devasted.
London. July 25 194 –
Drinks today with Jack, who as always was funny and charming as ever. We had lunch in Soho – mushrooms en croute with potatoes dauphinois and a bottle of champagne, then strawberries and cream to finish before a handful of ciggies and some gin. I always seem to have the best time with Jack. He always makes me laugh and seems much more carefree than his wife, Doris lets on.
London. July 26 194-
Awoke feeling dreadful. This damned war – the ever-present threat looming over one’s head has given me the most frightful headache. It was too much to make any major decision about leaving the review so have decided to stick it out for the time being. The girls are a lot of fun and Henry would be devastated, of course if I were to pull out.
London. July 30 194-
Finished rehearsals at five and was on the way out through the stalls when I heard Henry talking to someone in the box office. I wonder if he fears I am going to leave the show, because I heard him say that he would be devastated if anything were to jeopardize the situation. But then I remembered my gloves – which I didn’t need because London is so hot in July – but wanted so I went back to get them. Bumped into Jack looking flustered on my way out again. I had not even realised he had come to visit me. We went for cocktails and laughed like drains until ten. We also danced, but not too much as I don’t like to sweat.
London. August 194-
The end of the review and we head out again soon for another tour. I am looking forward to getting away. I love London, with its cosmopolitan streets and majestic architecture but it is almost impossible to get chocolate now. I suppose I should not complain. Many of the women are helping to support the effort by working and look so dreary in overalls and headscarves, at least I have skirts.