Page 5, 8th May 1953

8th May 1953
Page 5
Page 5, 8th May 1953 — SKETIll FROM MR. WOLFIT

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(King's, Hammeramith)

ONE goes to Hammersmith in a complacent mood these days. The panic and scramble of repertory production has had a whittling-down effect on even Mr. Donald Wolfit's work, but on the way home. shooting under the earth in the bright, electrified, wheeled coffins of London Trans. port, always one reflects that the journey was worth while, An artist has been seen at work and, almost sv I t h o u t exception, on worthy material.

His Pctruchio. unlike his massive Lear and fantastically embroidered Lord Ogleby, is not one of Mr. WoIfits sculpted works; it is a lightniog sketch. Perhaps he will elaborate upon it as time goes by, and in many CitieS. But I hope not; for. of all Shakespeare's plays, this minor comedy depends upon speed in production. To use an expression we applied before the war to certain Hollywood productions, it is a crazy C 0 m e d y an Elizabethan crazy comedy. As Katherine is labelled "the Shrew." so each iserson in the play is a type rather than a character, Cbnnic ad invigorating the words may be; the action counts more.

Vitality being the keynote of Mr. Wolfit's p1aying one regrets the new interpretation he has given the play that surrounds the play; earthily true as the character of Christopher Sly is, his part impedes action, Better have done with it skilfully and quickly.

Mr. Wolfit, taking liberties juatirialile only by complete success, Unlikely to achieve it in a repertory production, transforms the character described by Shakespeare as "A Lord" into the "God of Dieams'


and handicaps the actor playing the part by inducing bios to "fly" on to the stage nd attempt a two point landing on a half-pillar. The unfortunate young man vlio attempted this feat on the opening night is a better actor than an acrobat. Mr. WoIjit must not assume that the mernhers of his company are as versatile as himself. The effact was ludicrous. We were bored and awaited the arrival cit Peiruchio with detached eagerness.

He arrived, a hlaiid. self-coniplacent braggart, a satirical tough, a gentlemanly "cosh boy" who had, as they say, all thjiis taped, The world was this Pctruc.hio's oyster: neither past nor present. save as a main chance to a rich future, had meaning for hint, The broad, mocking grin as he raiscd an idiot cap 10 the memor' of his father. or the pompous gravity suited to the same gesture. the absentmiCded hut cutting whip bringing Grumio to heel like a silly whelp-all spoke ot a Peiruchjo who had found out the world, had no respect for it and meant to use it.

It is customary for critics to speak of the cruelly of this poetic farce. Mr. Wollit's treatment of Miss Iden's Katherine, which was spoiled by a hideous m a k e ' U p that violently clashed with some of her costumes. is cruel hut to he kind. This syas. a benevolent wolf. and I do not use the word in the sense that G.E. pcoois has given it. He relished her discornfiture; he loved her love more. Petnuchin ascendant would be a good husband as he had made his wife a wife.

I have complained of Mr. Wolfit's treatment of the joke on Sly as more or less than a joke. a dreant. It is just to note that it has one striking success. when the guests of Lucentio dispensed. after Katherine's lovely pech defining the qualities. if Mr. Potter will pardon the word, of wifemanhip. Here. a. in a dying stream. thes' chtstre4 and moved around the statuesque figure of Pcuuchio. in rich hlack. holding aloft an illuminating candle.

Mr. Wolfit would do well—with hit sense of theatre he must appreciate it—to finish on this picturesque note.

Sly recumbent is a poor substitute for Wolfit rampant. What followed was drab anti-climax.

STARCHED APRONS (Embassy) HERE i.s art inoffensive, mildly p 1 e a s a i t entertainment that might make a good Eating film. Miss Ena Lament Stewart's play has a multiplicity of minor themes, and no story that dominates.

The starched aprons of the title arc worn by nurses. The main character. only so because she is portt-aved with precise skill by Miss Freda Jackson, is a sister with more titan the ordinary ratibu of starch in her attitude to life. She prowls through c ci t r i d o r a and common t ooms, like a genteel Beastess of Ilcisen, shedding gloom and despondency w 1, e r C V C r she goes. The authoress's treatment of this character, veering from a proicr hostility to a sentimental pity, is less than adequate. Miss Jackson keeps her ahvc when on stage. but cannot pene' nate our reflec;ions.

A large cast of bobby soxing nurses, played, with varying degrees of craft by some pretty, and a couple of good. actjestes pad cut the sceneS. Miss Margaret Barton and Miss Joslin Parlane are believable arid attract Mr. AThe Bass playing an impossibly written scene as a drunk become pathetic made it seem possible: and Mr. Peter Tuddenhacti and Miss Evelinc (.iarrat with some lightly treated comedy brightened a play improbable. sentimental, uncenlain in ticatment and conception hut. all in :tll, not intolerable.

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