The Ireland of the inter-war years was an island of remarkable contradictions. In spite of the highly moralistic attitude of Church and State, including an official censorship of publications, there existed a heady atmosphere of laisser-faire. Artistic life in Dublin possessed a piquancy never found before or since, accentuated during the war years when Ireland’s neutrality resulted in intense social activity centred on the international embassies. Two inseparable figures dominated the artistic scene in Dublin during this period: Hilton Edwards and Micheal MacLiammoir. Both were actors of formidable range and power. Edwards was also one of the finest theatre directors in the English-speaking world; MacLiammoir also a designer and playwright. Together they founded the Gate Theatre in Dublin in 1928, where their “discoveries” included Geraldine Fitzgerald, James Mason and Orson Welles, who made his professional debut at the Gate aged 16, later offering MacLiammoir his finest film role as Iago to Welles’s Othello. Dogged by shortage of funds yet maintaining a salon-like existence, Hilton and Micheal were intent on the gay life in every sense.
They seized every opportunity for hectic seasons on Broadway and in the West End, and bizarre tours throughout Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, eventually striking gold with MacLiammoir’s world-famous one-man show, “The Importance of Being Oscar”. The outbreak of World War II found the company literally performing before the Crowned Heads of Europe. Adored by the public in spite – or because – of their eccentric lifestyle, they were revered as masters of their craft among professionals. They were the first artists to each be made a Freeman of the City of Dublin.
"Fitz-Simon makes what might have been a rather specialised bit of theatre history into a thoroughly readable story." - The Sunday Times
"Obviously researched with care and industry, well written and illuminating, it is an excellent biography in every way." - Sunday Independent
"Christopher Fitz-Simon’s meticulous, scholarly and loving double biography of MacLiammoir and his life-long lover, the equally mysterious Hilton Edwards... It emerges as one of the most eccentric love stories of the century." - The Sunday Times
"Splendid... Fascinating history and stylish prose..." - The Observer
"A touching account..." - The Evening Standard
"An excellent biography: candid, conscientious and almost definitive." - The Irish Times
"There is so much richness here that every page becomes a feast. Each of these complex and fascinating subjects is worthy of a biography of his own." - Irish Press
"Christopher Fitz-Simon has written an immensely detailed and well-researched biography of two vain and difficult men... He has done this with the wit and anecdote, the gossip and vitality that one associates with theatre... This is a really wonderful book in which the truth of our own experience is radiantly set forth. One loves THE BOYS; more importantly, one understands them." - The Independent
"This chronicle of a tale untold has been both scrupulously researched and lovingly written." - The Sunday Press
"Gentle wit made gritty by ironic vision...THE BOYS had me laughing aloud... It is the best theatrical biography I’ve read since Coward’s PRESENT INDICATIVE." - Fortnight
"This is a splendid book." - Books Ireland
"Beautifully written, diligently researched, sometimes sad, often hilarious." - Daily Telegraph
"This is a wonderful read." - Cork Examiner