A lost Noel Coward play, a one-acter entitled The Better Half, has been discovered by researchers at the British Library who were looking into the history of small-scale theatre productions in London. Completed in 1921, the only now-existing copy of Coward’s satire had been left untouched in the library’s archives for 86 years after being staged just once at the Little Theatre near Charing Cross (destroyed during the Blitz) in 1922.

The Better Half is an unconventional comedy of manners, which depicts the sexual intrigue surrounding an unhappy marital relationship and a husband who is about to embark on an affair with his wife’s best friend. The errant pair try to keep their flirtation a secret, but the wife already knows and is, in fact, trying to encourage a liaison. An honourable man, the husband refuses finally to indulge.

Having come to light again, The Better Half is due to be revived by the Sticking Place theatre company next month at the fringe Union Theatre in Southwark as part of its Terror 2007 festival. The play will then be published later this year by the University of Exeter. Probably handy to have a few more copies lying around!