Page 6, 17th March 1950

17th March 1950
Page 6
Page 6, 17th March 1950 — Theatre

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Locations: London


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The Good Sir Ralph

No actor in our theatre can suggest the goodness of simple men with more grace than Sir Ralph Richardson. Each charac.ter he portrays is precisely a man. With an inner serenity that implies absolute faith he conveys the dignity and fallibility of humanity and indefinably makes us conscious that God is watching.

The literary creations to which he gives flesh appear to emanate com pletely from his intelligence and spirit, owing nothing to facile and vulgar tricks of technique. He is a flawless technician. I can think of no characterisation he has given that was not a spiritual experience. He respects his fools and has compassion for the proud. Human beings he loves and his art is informed by veneration.

Mr. Harcourt Williams. another actor who brings to the stage a religious spirit, and to whom theatregoers owe more than he is ever likely to claim, tells us, in his valuable and beautiful hook, Old Vic Saga, how he first brought Sir Ralph to the great play-house as leading actor. Nearly twenty years ago, after a brilliant season. John Gielgud was leaving the company, and Mr Williams, then producer. found himself in a mood of conflicting sadness and happiness. Foster-father to so many of our best players. he was reluctant to see Mr. Gielgud leave ; " my happiness." he writes. " lay in the fact that I had persuaded Ralph Richardson to come hack at the head of the company. I wonder how many miles I trod in the quiet streets behind the Friends' Meeting House off Elision Road Ware I wrung acceptance from him? His mood was diffident, I might almost say obstinate, and he was doubtful of his ability to play such a wide range of parts. He could not believe in the rich humour of his Sir Toby Belch. the virility of his Kent. and the lyric beauty of.sand tragic feeling of his Lnoharhus."

We who have seen this poetic actor as a rich and Rabelaisian Falstaff. in the full powers of his artistic achievement, and as the questing Peer Gynt; felt the ineffable sorrow of his Karenin, which made Sir Alexander Korda's paltry adaptation of Anna Karenina memorable; who remember the silvery beauty of his John O'Gaunt and were pierced by his quiet unveiling of the tragic. egotistical doctor in The Heiress. will appreciate the diffidence. It is the quality of humility that has disciplined his art. Those foot-slogging hours given by Mr. Williams were well spent; they played their part in the creation of one of the best chapters of acting in the history of our theatre.


Mr. R. C. Sherriff's Rome At Seven (WYNDRAM's) is an admirably composed exercise for journeymen

players. It is a quiet play, owing nothing to literary tricks. The cast which surrounds Sir Ralph is given every opportunity to create human beings ; splendidly each player acquits himself. Mr. Philip Stainton, as a " second-rate" major. a mean little " bluffer," Mr. Campbell Singer as a police-inspector, and Mr. Cyril Raymond as a family doctor, bring their assured talents to a composition which unravels with smooth increasing dramatic momentum.


With Magazine Follies (EMPIRE) the vaudeville show at this theatre settles down to being a most charm

ing light entertainment. Lovers of the Covent Garden may raise their expert eye-brows at the Punch ballet; I found it delightful. The Craddocks, clowns from the continent, use the whole gigantic stage. falling over, appearing to hover in space, climbing up each other seeking fobtholds in faces like mountaineers. and generally making us laugh heartily. And a word of praise to the chorus and dance team of young men and girls. They set a new and higher standard for such work in London. Mr. Alastair Sim. Mr. George Cole, Miss Megs Jenkins and a good cast act admirably in Mr. James Bridie's Mr. Gillie (Gramm). The play might be described as a Calvinist comedy. Mr. Gillic is a schoolmaster who encourages intelligent boys and girls in his classes to seek their fortunes beyond the village ; invariably they are predestined to become criminals or paupers. The pupil concerned in the action goes off to London to see theatre-managers and tries to interest them in a play he ,

has written. Six months later he returns, a spiv. If his play was anything like Mr. Gillie, he had chosen the better way. W. J. I.

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