Dear Octopus

Full-Length Play, Comedy  /  12w, 5m

Dodie Smith

The life of an English family shown in terms of the chatter of youngsters, the careers and nursery memories of the middle-aged, and the sense of the swift passing of the years.

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    12w, 5m
  • Duration
    More than 120 minutes (2 hours)


Successfully produced in London and New York. Dear Octopus is the story of a family from which none of its members are either able or quite willing to escape. And on the occasion of a golden wedding anniversary, the children and grandchildren gather to reminisce and acquaint each other more fully with their activities. The life of this English family is shown in terms of the chatter of the youngsters, the careers and nursery memories of the middle-aged, and the sense of the swift passing of the years; the sweetness of an old nurse, the minor frictions and abiding loyalty of brothers and sisters, the feast-day toast, and the benevolent tyranny of the grandmother. Woven throughout the proceedings is a love story between Fenny, companion to Mrs. Randolph, and Nicholas Randolph.
Dear Octopus was produced by Glen Byam Shaw, in conjunction with the Author, at the Queen’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, on 14th September 1938.

CHARLES RANDOLPH – Seventy-five, a very handsome old man.
DORA RANDOLPH – Seventy-two, a small, white-haired and still pretty woman, charmingly dressed.

Their Children
HILDA RANDOLPH – Forty-two, plain, intelligent and rather nervy.
MARGERY HARVEY – Forty, fair, pretty, but much too fat.
CYNTHIA RANDOLPH – Thirty-seven, with a sensitive, attractive, but faintly tragic face.
NICHOLAS RANDOLPH – Thirty-five, attractive, but not conventionally good-looking.

Their Grandchildren
HUGH RANDOLPH – Twenty-three, very nice-looking.
GWEN (FLOUNCY) HARVEY – Twelve, golden-curled, plump and affected.
WILLIAM (BILL) HARVEY – About ten, a nice-looking little boy.
KATHLEEN (SCRAP) KENTON – Small, thin, rather peaky-looking, about nine, with a very shy manner.

BELLE SCHLESSINGER – Their Sister-in-law, small, trim, very fashionably dressed.
EDNA RANDOLPH – Hugh’s Mother, forty-five, handsome and very smart.
LAUREL RANDOLPH – Hugh’s Wife, twenty-two, a very lovely, fair girl.
KENNETH HARVEY – Margery’s Husband, forty-five, pleasant-looking and stoutish.
GRACE (FENNY) FENNING – Dora’s Companion, twenty-nine, slender and unobtrusively pretty, with a pleasant, unaffected manner.
NANNY PATCHING – A Nurse, sixty-two, comfortable-looking.
GERTRUDE – A Parlourmaid, fifty, heavily-built.

  • Setting A country house in North Essex.
  • Duration More than 120 minutes (2 hours)


“Smith's writing is witty, detailed and keenly observed...” — The Stage

“Gently witty.” — Evening Standard

“Dodie Smith’s play presents a beautifully drawn, four-generation celebration of a golden wedding anniversary on the eve of the second world war.” — The Guardian

“Dodie Smith’s slow burning pre-war family saga will suck you in.” — The Independent

“Filled with zingers that are really, properly laugh-out-loud funny.” — London Theatre

“Gripping and evocative.” — The Reviews Hub

“Smith's writing is witty, detailed and keenly observed, capturing the fractious family's dynamics so skilfully that their conversations feel entirely fresh and relatable.” — The Stage

“This is poignant, exquisitely performed theatre.” — The Telegraph

“Pleasant” — Time Out

“Death and the passing of time form constant motifs but Smith’s gift for comedy keeps us from the abyss.” — The Times

“Joyously and painfully relatable.” — WhatsOnStage

Licensing & Materials

  • Minimum Fee: £70 per performance plus VAT when applicable.


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Dodie Smith

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