Hugh Hastings

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Hugh Hastings (1917–2004) was an Australian writer best known for his play Seagulls Over Sorrento. He moved to England in 1936 determined to break into theatre as an actor or writer. He served in the British navy for over five years during World War II.[1][2][3]


Hastings's Seagulls Over Sorrento made theater history by running for 1,551 performances at London's Apollo Theatre. Only two other plays had then run longer in theater history: Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit; and R. F. Delderfield's Worm's Eye View.[4]

Part of the play's appeal was that it was radical for the time. The play was set inside a Royal Navy research station near Scapa Flow. The play was not popular with everyone, and not everyone saw the humor in it. It elicited subdued laughs as well as frowns, depending on whether the audience was liberal or conservative.[4]

He estimated he made ₤50,000 from Sorrento.[5] The fortune grew to £100,000 when in 1954 a film version made by the Boulting Brothers was released.[4]

Hastings also has a movie role to his name, although his appearance was uncredited. He worked on the script of the 1952 film The Gift Horse. It was in that movie that he acted. Hastings also wrote the dialogues for a Marghanita Laski melodrama, It Started In Paradise (1952). He also wrote another naval play, Red Dragon. It was based on the 1949 Yangtze Incident, which involved HMS Amethyst. The play failed to make an impression. And in fact none of his other works reached the success levels of Sorrento. Even different versions of his most famous work failed to succeed. The television version of Sorrento was broadcast in 1960 with no real impact. He also financed and wrote a musical version, entitled Scapa, which ran for a few weeks at the Adelphi Theatre in 1962.[4]

He also appeared briefly as Private Hastings in Dad's Army.

Select credits[edit]

  • The Quadrille (1936) – play
  • Seagulls Over Sorrento (1950) – play
  • Red Dragon (1950) – based on the Amethyst Incident
  • Inner Circle (1952) – play
  • Glory at Sea (1952) – screenplay
  • A Touch of the Sun (1952) – play
  • Pink Elephants (1955) – play
  • Blood Orange (1958) – play
  • Scapa! (1962) – book for musical
  • The Green Carnation (1973)


  1. ^ "Australian Makes Grade In London". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 20 November 1949. p. 6 Supplement: Features. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Australian's play is big hit in West End". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 24 February 1951. p. 15. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Playwright finds a seagull over Sydney". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 28 January 1953. p. 21. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Barker, Dennis (2005-01-11). "Hugh Hastings". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  5. ^ "HE'S THE "BARON OF BEEFCAKE"". The Sunday Times. Perth: National Library of Australia. 30 May 1954. p. 22 Edition: COUNTRY EDITION. Retrieved 10 January 2014.

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