THEATRE: By W. J. IGOE
JOHN GIELGED : An Actor's Biography in Pictures, edited by Hallam Fordharn with personal narratise by John Gielgud (Lehmann, 30s.).
A PLAY TONIGHT, by J. C. Trewin (Eick, 16s.).
1952 which I noted last week 1952 which I noted last week 5as the most depressing year I have known in English theatre, brought an uncommonly large number of good hooks from the critics and an interesting and successful experiment in theatrical biography from Mr. Hallam Fordham. Already I have reviewed Mr. Richard Findlater's The Unholy Trade (Oollancz. I6s.), and I refer to it again because I believe it to be the most valuable critical and sociological study of its subject published in many years. The single fault it has lies in being overgenerous.
If Mr. Findlater had been an older, lazier and more cunning scribe he would have made at least three books out of the material he uses for one. Instead he gives us a splendid volume, a survey of all that goes to make contemporary theatre and an essential book for all students and lovers of the playhouse.
FORDHAM'S biography of .1V-1 Mr. Gielgud, with autobiographical chapters supplied by the subject, is the sort of book likely to become a family treasure, a volume children will dream over before a fire on winter days.
In times gone by, picture postcards of famous players were sold in theatres; many of us gained our first impressions of drama from albums in which our parents collected these souvenirs; Martin Harvey, awkwardly debonair in The Only Way, Seymour Hicks suave as The Man in Dress Clothes. Zena Dare remotely beautiful in sepia and the oddly Harley Street appearance of Sir Henry Irving pensive in wing collars. Mr. Fordham has given us a biography of our leading actor in an extension of the family album method: his book is the most satisfying actor's biography I know and will remain a valuable supplement to the authoritative "life" which our grandchildren some day will study.
if R. J. C. TREWIN is one of the 1V-1wisest of London reviewers, a gentle, shrewd judge of acting and a tolerant student of dramatic litersture. His A Play Tonight is a diary kept from the autumn of 1949 until the summer of 1952. All obviously is grist that comes to Mr. Trewin's mind and all is transformed into a delightful moving picture of the theatre in the months under review—great acting from Olivier, Wolfit and Gielgud, music hall, musical comedy, verse plays, all arc recorded and interpreted in this wise and kindly volume.
This definitely is the bedside book for the member of the audience who has a mind to associate with one of the best minds devoted to contemporary English drama