Outward Bound (play)

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Outward Bound is a 1923 play written by Sutton Vane.


The play is about a group of seven passengers who meet in the lounge of an ocean liner at sea and realise that they have no idea why they are there, or where they are bound. Each of them eventually discovers that they are dead, and that they have to face judgment from an Examiner, who will determine whether they are to go to Heaven or Hell.

Production background[edit]

Producers stayed away from such an unusual combination of fantasy and drama, so Vane staged it himself, painting his own backdrops and building his own sets, reportedly for $600. It proved to be a huge success, becoming the hit of the 1923 London season, transferring from the small Everyman Theatre, Hampstead to the West End.

Original casts[edit]

An American production premiered on Broadway at the Ritz Theatre on 7 January 1924, running for 144 performances until May 1924. Dudley Digges, Leslie Howard, Beryl Mercer, and Alfred Lunt starred in the production.

There were London revivals in 1926, 1928 and 1940. In the last of these, the original player of Stubby, the Charon-like barman, was played by its creator, Stanley Lathbury, with Cathleen Nesbitt, Sarah Churchill, Louise Hampton, Terence De Marney and Anthony Hawtrey.[1]

The play was revived on Broadway at the Playhouse Theatre, from 22 December 1938 to 22 July 1939, running for 255 performances. This production was directed by Otto Preminger, and featured Laurette Taylor, Helen Chandler, and Vincent Price.

Several film adaptations were made, the first being Outward Bound (1930), with Dudley Digges and Beryl Mercer reprising their roles, while Leslie Howard played Lunt's. The film was remade as Between Two Worlds (1944), with some changes reflecting World War II. John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, and Eleanor Parker starred.

The play was revived in London at the Finborough Theatre in 2012, with a cast comprising David Brett, Natalie Walter, Tom Davey, Nicholas Karimi, Carmen Rodriguez, Paul Westwood, Ursula Mohan, Derek Howard and Martin Wimbush.[2]


  1. ^ "Mr Vane Sutton-Vane", The Times, 19 June 1963, p. 15; and "Theatres", The Times, 7 August 1940, p. 6
  2. ^ "Theatre: Outward Bound", The Stage, 9 February 2012, p. 17

External links[edit]