Terence Rattigan's Harlequinade is a one-act farce about a touring theatre company, first produced in a double-bill with The Browning Version under the joint title Playbill at the Phoenix Theatre, London, on 8 September 1948.
The play is set on the stage of a theatre in a Midlands town. Arthur Gosport and his wife Edna are the principal leads in a professional touring theatre company, currently performing Romeo and Juliet. In order to hide their unsuitability as teenage lovers, they have the stage lights turned down so low that they fuse. However, when Arthur is confronted by the daughter and granddaughter he never knew he had, he discovers that he’s actually still married to his first wife and has (unwittingly) committed bigamy.
As Rattigan scholar Dan Rebellato writes in his introduction to the play (published in a volume with The Browning Version by Nick Hern Books, 1994), the play is 'a witty satire of the kind of touring theatre encouraged by the new Committee for the Encouragement of Music and Arts (CEMA, the immediate forerunner of the Arts Council)'. In August 1946, this body was reconstituted as the Arts Council of Great Britain.
The Phoenix Theatre premiere was directed by Peter Glenville, with Eric Portman as Arthur Gosport, Mary Ellis as Edna Selby, Marie Löhr as Dame Maud Gosport, Hector Ross as Jack Wakefield, Kenneth Edwards as George Chudleigh, Peter Scott as First Halberdier, Basil Howes as Second Halberdier, Noel Dyson as Miss Fishlock, Anthony Oliver as Fred Ingram, Henry Bryce as Johnny, Thelma Ruby as Muriel Palmer, Patrick Jordan as Tom Palmer, Campbell Cotts as Mr Burton, Henryetta Edwards as Joyce Langland and Manville Tarrant as the Policeman.