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AUSTRALIANS PLAY AT STRATFORD
There is no other theatre like it in the world ?not quite. The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, mirrored in the gentle Avon River at Stratford, has a compelling spirit all its own.
AUSTRALIAN ACTOR Keith Michell
(Duke of Athens) with Jean Wilson (Hip polyta) in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" await a play to be performed in their honor by Bottom and his fellow rustics.
TO play at Stratford-on-Avon,
one actor has given up half a million dollars and postponed world fame?Laurence Harvey, who is doing Romeo here, and telling California to wait. Not long ago, Richard Burton, too,
Muriel Pavlow is flitting across the stage with Titania's light grace. She was just returning to the British screen in a fresh blaze of glory when
The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre has drawn a cohort of Aus tralians across the world from com
fortable and rewarding careers at home. For what? For the privilege, in many cases, of holding a spear, of speaking a line, of drawing a pit
tanre, of waiting
on that chance for
just such solid parts as fellow
McKern, Keith Michell, and Ray mond Sherry have won.
This pilgrimage which the world
of the theatre?audience and actors ?makes annually to Stratford-on Avon seems a little fanatic from a distance. But Stratford has a potent
The splendor of the plays has
never seemed richer than in the set
ting of Shakespeare's own village.
For three months now the Aus tralians who have newly joined the cast have had their rewards, if not all in fat, rollicking roles, then in work and unique experience.
They are guided by a slender, grey-haired man who has little to say for himself.
He sits in the stalls and quietly lets them get on with their business up there on the boards without so much as a raised eyebrow or a com ment until rehearsal is over. Then he gives them notes.
With a few comments dropped casually among the cast, he pulls a performance together here, encour ages there, brings an actor wander
By BILL STRUTTON, of our London staff
ing in a fog of doubt back to i
vision of what is wanted.
His name is Glen Byam Shaw.
Many call him the greatest pn ducer of Shakespeare in the theati
today. Certainly those in Stratford do, from the lead players down.
Laurence Harvey, picking at a chicken leg and gazing out over the Avon where the swans swam in a stately ballet, said thoughtfully, "It
not every day an actor has a geniu for a teacher. We have one here.'
Harvey came to Stratford fresh? if that is the word?from a gruelling seven months of playing Romeo in Verona in glorious technicolor, un der the direction of Italy's Renat
Castellani and opposite an English girl who had never acted before in her life, who was coached for ever} word and every inflexion.
Harvey is too tactfuly to mak' comparisons, but I
had the idea that h>' was infinitely hap
pier in Stratford at a tenth of hi movie salary.
He said: "When I was over in Hollywood they tried luring me with a wicked bait. There was a pro ducer there who knows I'm craz\
about cars, particularly about a cer tain American make with spcci.i
carburettors and everything that de lights a car-crank like me.
"He took me out on to the lot to show me the latest model. 'Son. he said, and sucked at a fat cigar, 'you play in "Helen of Troy" for us, and you can have SIX of those
"But I still had to come to Strat ford. I guess all actors are crazy.'
During recent weeks the whole cast has hardly had a spare moment They have spent the days?ever Sundays?in rehearsal, the nights in playing.
Ron Haddrick, the tall, dark young radio actor from South Aus tralia, said to me: "I have three different parts in 'Romeo and Juliet.' But it doesn't keep me busy enough. There's always a lot of turn
I7V THE GREEN ROOM (below) tome Australians play poker and Jane Holland darns sockt. From left are Jane Holland, Raymond Sherry, Keith Michell, Frank
Watert, Kevin Miles, and Leo McKern,
DEATH SCE\E from "Romeo and Juliet." Friar Laurence (Leo McKern) mourns over Romeo (Laurence Harvey) - and Juliet (Zena Walker):
They feature an stage
run the cricket team
during rehearsal when you're wait ing round for your cue and wishing vou had more real study to get
vour teeth into."'
1 he glassed-in Green Room back stage?a noisy place with snackbar, tables, a superb view of rivers and fields?is their headquarters between sorties on to the stage. A loud speaker relays the progress of the drama onstage while swordsmen, courtiers, Veronese ladies, and min strels play cards, sip coffee, smoke,
,nd wait their turn to go on.
They have invented weird varia tions on straight poker rules to
i guile the backstage waiting. Each
variation is named after its inventor. Thus there is McKern poker, Grout poker, Sherry poker.
There is a constant two-way traf fic through the swing doors. Jane Holland, wife of Leo McKern, cocks an ear at the loud-speaker and puts away the socks she has been darn ing. McKern thoughtfully twiddles
his bare toes and shivers.
There is no connection between these two facts. Leo's rich part as Friar Laurence in "Romeo and Juliet" demands that he go barefoot.
He and Jane share with Muriel Pavlow a wing of the magnificent red-bricked country home of Golonel Flower, a brewery magnate whose father made the creation of the
Shakespeare Memorial Theatre his life's goal.
In the centre of the town, behind
its shop facade, Frank Waters and his family inhabit a 16th-century house whose living-room is a cross between Tudor England and a Paris
Giant black-creosoted oak beams criss-cross the room. It is lit by crooked lead-paned windows, and
warmed by a huge salamander stove. Before they organised the heating, says Frank with a reminiscent shudder, it was the coldest place in
But now spring has come. With
their first sunshine and their first
day free of rehearsals, the Shake speare Memorial Theatre produced a
Across the river from the theatre, they turned out at the nets with an Australian captain, Ray Sherry,
with South Australian interstate
cricketer Haddrick as their star bat, and with three other Australians
figuring prominently in the attack.
For their matches they are smartly togged in braided caps with the
vellow-and-black theatre colors and its heraldic shield as a badge.
"Big stuff, bov!" said Haddrick, with a leer. "We play the local Farmers' Union on Sunday. We've just got to win!"
His boarding-house mate, Kevin Miles, has been stirred from seden tary idleness and roped in to bowl
for the first time in his life.
It's not what you'd call a well balanced team.
Frank Waters, for instance, is handicapped in the field by having to keep one eye on his daughters.
The younger, "Butch," keeps toddling off towards the river.
In fact, Australia owns almost as great a share in Stratford-on-Avon as England itself.
There are seven players in the cast; two more on the stage staff. The box-office and hotel bookings have the same strong emphasis, for
Australian visitors outnumber those
from any other country.
And, of course, they practically
run the cricket team . . .
ABOVE: Titania (Muriel Pavlow) and Oberon (Powys Thomas) quarrel in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," while Puck (David O'Brien) watches mischievously.
THE LOVERS whose changing fancies under the spell of a fairy potion provide much of the gaiety of "A Midsummer ISight's Dream." From left are Hermia (Zena Walker), Lysander (Tony Britton), Helena (Barbara Jefford), and Demetrius (Basil Hoskins).
Pictures on these pages were taken by Alec Murray.
RIGHT: With three roles to play in "Romeo and Juliet," Australian Ron Had drick grabs a moment's relaxation in the
Green Room between entrances.