The White Carnation

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For the television episode of this title, see Climax!.
The White Carnation
Written by R.C. Sheriff
Date premiered 1953
Original language English

The White Carnation is a 1953 play by English playwright R. C. Sherriff. Its premiere production had a cast led by Ralph Richardson, but it was not revived until a 2013 Finborough Theatre production featuring Aden Gillett and Benjamin Whitrow.[1]

In 2014, the play was performed at the Jermyn Street Theatre [2]


John Greenwood says goodbye to the guests from he and his wife's Christmas Eve, but a gust of wind shuts the front door and leaves him locked out of his own house. He breaks a window to gain entry and finds the house ruined and deserted. A policeman questions him what he is doing in the house, all of whose inhabitants were killed by a V-1 flying bomb during a Christmas Eve party in 1944, but Greenwood indignantly insists that he is in his own house. A coroner and doctor are summoned and inform Greenwood that he was one of the inhabitants killed and that he has returned to the house as a ghost - and that is now 1951.

Greenwood is visited by Lydia Truscott, niece of the town clerk, who agrees to help him in his attempts at self-education and returning to the spirit-world. He also meets with a welcome from the local vicar Mr Pendlebury and his next door neighbour Mrs Carter, but also has to deal with the coroner and the Home Office, who are determined to move Greenwood out, knock the house down and build new flats on the site.

As the house's demolition begins, Greenwood finally vanishes and in a final scene re-runs his last Christmas Eve party, reconciling with his wife, whom during his haunting he had realised that he had emotionally ill-treated during his lifetime.

Critical reaction

Writing in The Sunday Times, the critic Harold Hobson called the original production of the play "extremely and touchingly human".[3] Of the revival Dominic Cavendish writing in the Telegraph observed, "what a neglected little treasure it proves: not life-changing, maybe, but life-affirming".[3] However, writing in The Guardian, Michael Billington called the play "passably entertaining, but much of its feels like quilted padding."[4]

1963 Australian TV Version

The White Carnation
Produced by Christopher Muir
Release date
29 May 1963[5]
Running time
60 mins
Country Australia
Language English

The play was adapted for Australian TV in 1963 directed by Christopher Muir.[6]


  • Roly Barlee
  • Barbara Brandon
  • Margaret Cruikshank
  • Michael Duffield as John Greenwood
  • Brian Gilmar
  • Edward Hepple
  • Jane Oehr
  • Alwyn Owen
  • Hugh Stewart
  • Thurgood
  • Stewart Weller
  • Leslie Wright
  • Felicity Young

See also


  1. ^ "The White Carnation - 2013". Finborough Theatre. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  2. ^ "What's On - Jermyn Street TheatreJermyn Street Theatre". 2016-09-07. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  3. ^ a b "The White Carnation". Finborough Theatre. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  4. ^ Billington, Michael (29 November 2013). "The White Carnation - review". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Ghost Theme for Play". Sydney Morning Herald. 20 May 1963. p. 11.
  6. ^ The White Carnation at IMDB
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