WASHINGTON — Anthony Marriott — an English playwright who dismayed critics and delighted theatergoers with ‘‘No Sex Please, We’re British,’’ the only slightly salty farce in which pants were dropped and toilets flushed to the amusement of house after house of spectators — died April 17 near London at 83.
‘‘No Sex Please,’’ England’s longest-running comedy, premiered in London’s West End on June 3, 1971, shortly after the death of Mr. Marriott’s coauthor, Alistair Foot.
Originally billed as ‘‘The Secret Sex Life of a Sub-branch Bank Manager,’’ the show presented audiences with the misadventures of a buttoned-up newlywed couple, a young bank employee and his wife, and the stream of pornographic material mistakenly and infelicitously mailed to their home.
Among critics, the show flopped. One disappointed observer called it ‘‘as glumly witless as its title.’’ But popular audiences, including busloads of tourists, lapped up its physical comedy and innuendo and turned out for 6,761 performances before the show closed Sept. 5, 1987.
An American traveler once told a reporter that ‘‘leaving London without seeing it would be like missing Trafalgar Square or Buckingham Palace.’’ The show’s title became a catchphrase in England and beyond, and at least one publication marked the end of the production with the report ‘‘No Sex Please, We’re Finished.’’
(The second-longest-running comedy on a British stage, Joseph Kesselring’s ‘‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’’ ran for a relatively paltry 1,337 performances, the Daily Telegraph said.)
Mr. Marriott confessed that he did not know why his show lasted so long or why, specifically, it appealed so strongly to his country’s middle class. True to its title, the play featured no erotica. ‘‘It’s not even naughty,’’ Mr. Marriott told an interviewer. ‘‘It’s suitable for anyone aged 7 upward.’’
Audiences were left to imagine the smut that poured into the protagonists’ flat, above the bank branch and frequently visited by the young groom’s colleague.
‘‘It appeals to the conventionally minded while permitting them to think of themselves as just a little unconventional,’’ Benedict Nightingale, the British theater critic, once wrote in The New York Times.
The show reportedly appeared in more than 50 countries, including one noted tour in the United States in 1973. By that time, its popularity had forced critics to acknowledge, however begrudgingly, that it had something going for it.
‘‘I would prefer to see ‘Medea,’ ” wrote Clive Barnes of The New York Times. ‘‘But I imagine quite a few theatergoers in New York would not.’’
Anthony John Crosbie Marriott was born in London.
Mr. Marriott studied at what is now the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He began his artistic career as an actor and worked with the BBC Drama Repertory Company.
In addition to his collaboration with Alistair Foot, Mr. Marriott also worked with Bob Grant on such plays as ‘‘Darling London’’ and ‘‘Home Is Where Your Clothes Are’’ and with John Chapman on plays including ‘‘Shut Your Eyes and Think of England.’’ He also wrote for television and film. ‘‘No Sex Please’’ was made into a 1973 film starring Ronnie Corbett.
Mr. Marriott’s wife of 43 years, the former Heulwen Roberts, died in 1999. He leaves three children in England, Shan Butler of Hertfordshire, Sally Abbott of Camberley, and Simon Marriott of London; a sister; and six grandchildren.