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2 corrections, most recently by doug.butler - Show corrections




by Frank Doherty  

WE -- the Melbourne public - have no reason to give    

ourselves a collective pat on the back over our treat-   ment of the departing John Alden Shakespearian company.    

It was, in a word, shocking.  

Tonight Mr. Alden and his   friends will watch the final curtain   fall on their 16-week Melbourne   season with I do not know what   feelings. Disappointing, probably.   Acrimonious, perhaps.  

For the first time for many years we   have had Shakespeare offered to us as he   meant it to be offered - as entertain-   ment. And what happened?  

We lapped it up with the enthusiasm   and delight of a child taking a dose of   castor oil.  

PROBABLY the unhappiest aspect   of all was that our schools, for  

the main part, hailed the advent of a   Shakespearian season in Melbourne with   a monumental showing of indifference.   It could have been a boogie-woogie festi   val for all they seemed to care.  

Yet these schools, private and State,   were sent circulars (twice) about the   series of plays. The bait of concession   rates was dangled before them. Some     responded, though apathetically; others   did not respond at all.  

YOU may ask here, and possibly   with some justification: "Was   the Alden company worth seeing, worth   paying for our children to see?"  

And "The Merchant of Venice." in-   cluded in the Alden repertoire, is included   in the school curriculum for some stu-   dents this year.  

Of course it was.   It may not have been a first-class     Shakespearian company, a world ranking   company. But it was, say what you will,   a reasonably good company; and, more   important still, it afforded our children   a chance to see Shakespeare staged.  

Until then so many youngsters knew   Shakespeare only as an Elizabethan who   wrote plays they were forced to study;   as someone whose tiresome words they   were compelled to write laboriously . as   impositions.    

They thought of Shakespeare as a book,   of Hamlet as just a character in that   book, of "Henry IV, Part II," as some in-   explicable thing that followed something    

called "Henry IV, Part I."  

Then, when a chance did come to show   adolescent minds that Shakespeare's   plays could be entertaining - even "good   fun," which children look for in almost   everything - the chance was denied   them.  

  WE ourselves, the supposed adult  

theatre-going public of Mel bourne, did not treat Mr. Alden and his   group much better. Why?  

Because it was John Alden, an Aus-   tralian, playing Lear and Shylock and   Bottom and Mr. Ford. It was not Sir   Laurence Olivier, Sir Ralph Richardson,   John Gielgud, or even (at a pinch)     Donald Wolflt.  

Had it been any of those overseas stars   -with the same company in support of   them - I suggest there would have been   queues, blackmarketing in tickets, dinner   parties, and the like.  

Admittedly, Alden is     not the fine actor these     other men are. He is not     the perfect Lear (or Bot-     tom or Ford or Shylock).     And his company, though     it contains some com-   petent players, is not a     first-rate company.     It has its weaknesses     but it has improved even     during the short Mel-   bourne season. But what     could do a power of good     would be the ideas and     discipline of an overseas     producer (preferably Brit-     ish) of unquestioned     repute.    


AS it stands, how-   ever, we owe it   our patronage. Did you,     in the twenties, wait for     Gladys Moncrieff to     become Williamson's     greatest star before you     flocked to see her?