The first outing of the year was to the Roundhouse (long before Kenneth Tynan's theatrical attempt made it a household word) where the National Youth Theatre performed 'Macbeth' before a sombre set, comprised chiefly of black railings. There was particular interest in the production because of the appearance of Albert Welling, the school's most talented actor, who was cast as the Porter while being the understudy for Macbeth, a role which certain members of the audience, although undoubtedly biased, thought he would have played better than the leading actor. Following this was a trip to see "Man of La Mancha", the greatly acclaimed musical based on Cervantes "Don Quixote". The leading role was sung by Richard Kiley, and the story of the lunatic visionary was both witty and moving, and of a high musical standard. The first of a number of visits to the National Theatre was to see 'yet again' Tom Stoppard's brilliantly funny, yet tragically moving "Rosencrantz and Guildenstein are dead", played by the Edwards Aardwiche and Petherbridge. They are the attendant lords who spin coins when they are not wanted, and exist only to be caught up in great events which lead to their deaths. Peter Nichols new play, "the National Health", was a skit upon the health service, and the depersonalizing attitude of its staff towards patients, and while much of the humour was, as it is commonly called, of the sick type, the parody of the romanticized doctor-nurse relationship seen in women's magazines was carried out effectively. After the comedy of Alistair Sims in "The Magistrate", came a night of Gilbert and Sullivan at the London Coliseum with "Patience", in which the fashionably artistic and literary craze of the middle 19th Century is satirised with typical Gilbertian gusto.
Sean O'Casey's "The Silver Tassie" at the Aldwych was described as a "tragic-comedy", and in the middle thirties was seen as outspoken in its anti-war theme. The production in September, however, lacked the subtle handling needed to make the play effective. One of the more memorable outings of the Theatre Club was to the Questor's production in Ealing of Ibsen's "Peer Gynt". Although an ambitious production, the acting was confident, and Peer's progress through a varied life was shown with a wonderful sensitivity.
For those whose tastes inclined towards Elizabethan and Jacobean Tragedy, seats were booked for Webster's "The White Devil", and Tourneur 's "The Revenger's Tragedy". The former, at the Old Vic, was first staged in 1612, and is the re-telling of a true story of treachery, intrigue, and murder, set in the notorious Italy of the 16th Century. The cast included Geraldine McEwan, Derek Godfrey, and Edward Woodward. "The Revenger's Tragedy" at the Aldwych is rich in its cynicism, disgust and loathing of humanity, (written in the age of the revenge-tradition) and has been described "an entangled web of lust, incest, fratricide, rape, adultery, mutual suspicion, hate and bloodshed": an interesting combination, no doubt, but it tends to be rather heavy for the 20th Century audience.
The R.S.C.'s production of "Troilus and Cressida" was brilliantly staged. The scene was Troy in the eighth year of the Greek siege, and the battle sequences were especially memorable. Another trip to Mattock Lane, Ealing, was arranged for the production of "Iolanthe" presented by the Cecilian Players, under the Musical Direction of Mr. P. Byrne, and the direction of Mr. R.B. Pickles. The amusing combination of lords and fairies sang well, with a polished performance from the 'highly susceptible chancellor'. The Theatre Club's quota of Shaw was realised with "The Apple Cart", and witty, professional performances from John Neville and Maurice Denham; and with the marathon "Back to Methuselah".
Other trips were to "After Haggerty" by David Mercer, "Conduct Unbecoming" by Barry England, and "Sleuth", a detective thriller by Anthony Shaffer, whose plot, "for the sake of future audiences", should not be disclosed. Restoration Comedy was represented by George Farquhar, in which Maggie Smith gave a delightfully humorous performance.
The final outing was to Chichester for its production of Peer Gynt. It is for this journey especially that we wish to thank Messrs. Tufnell and Crawford (for arranging the bookings and providing the transport), and without whose co-operation so many evenings at the theatre would not have been possible.