There’s something about theater stories. They inevitably involve brilliant but eccentric artists in unusual circumstances. In this series we’ll tell just a few. Please add on if you have one. It doesn’t matter if they’re true. It’s more important that they have that Stephen Colbert “truthiness” – it sounds as if it’s right. For example, the quote of extremely dignified British actor Wilfred Hyde White: “I never do exposition, and I never sit on anything green.”

I’ll begin with one about the end of the career of one of America’s greatest and most dashing actors, John Barrymore, seen here as Shakespeare’s Richard III. Born in Philadelphia, as was his good friend W.C. Fields, he came from a “theater family”. He was thrown out of Georgetown Prep at 16 for entering a bordello, foretelling a notorious life of four marriages and countless affairs, faithful only to the bottle. Tragically declining as he approached 60, he was reduced to acting a “ham” part in a pre-Broadway tryout in Philadelphia. By this time his fans had left him, and the audience let him know they did not appreciate his drunken performance. After some moments of abuse he paused on stage, raised himself to his full grandeur and silenced the crowd. “Some of you…” he clearly declaimed, “may be booing your own father.”