Deb’s Back In Town

THE DAY AFTER THE FAIR at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.

Many years ago Deborah Kerr made her film debut in Shaw’s MAJOR BARABARA, and proceeded to become one of Britain’s biggest screen stars. She eventually went to Hollywood for a co-starring role with Clark Gable and for a time her career reached a standstill until somebody had the bright idea of casting her as the adulterous wife in the film FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. On this occasion I found her unconvincing, but as a result of this film she received an Oscar nomination and bigger roles followed. She went on to star in THE KING AND I, TEA AND SYMPATHY, and many other important films, receiving along the way 6 Oscar nominations.

Through the years her loveliness and grace has never diminished and it is good news that she is back with us again on the West End stage. The vehicle she has chosen to star in, THE DAY AFTER THE FAIR is based on a short story by Robert Hardy, and is the kind of play designed particularly for women audiences.

The plot tells of a servant girl’s seduction by a young barrister and her collusion with the mistress of the house in writing letters to him. When the girl finds herself pregnant he is summoned to the house, and it is soon apparent that he has fallen in love with the writer of the letters. Unknown to him it is Miss Kerr who has been busily writing them, and in an unconvincing scene earlier on she tells the maid that it is her letters that have retained his interest. However the girl persuades her mistress not to divulge the truth to him and the play reaches its sad but convincing conclusion. Julia Foster as the maid once again gives an excellent account of herself, though I always feel she lacks charm, a point made even more obvious whilst watching Miss Kerr’s graceful presence.

It may be unchivalrous to say this, but I felt at times that Miss Kerr has lost some of her stage technique, resorting as she does to comic bits of ‘stage business’ and facial grimaces to get her point across to the audience But for all that it is a joy to welcome her back to the London Theatre, and 1 hope this will lead to other stage appearances in the future.

Theatre For Christmas

Someone in the editorial collective decided it would be a nice idea if I would select what I thought were suitable shows for our readers to see at Christmas, as that’s the time of year a lot of folk take an occasional visit to the theatre. Firstly take into consideration that we go to press 3 weeks before the actual Christmas week so do check the daily papers to ensure the show you wish to see is still running.

Now it rather depends on the type of show you want to see, and who you are going to take along (if anybody) so I’ll try and categorise those that I consider the best ones.

If you are considering taking along a parent, aunt or anyone approaching middle age, settle for GONE WITH THE WIND at Drury Lane Theatre which has enough glamour to appeal to them, or if you feel a straight play would be preferable I suggest one of the following:

LLOYD GEORGE KNEW MY FATHER at the Savoy Theatre which is a light comedy not likely to offend anyone, and skilfully played by Celia Johnson and Sir Ralph Richardson. Another safe bet is CROWN MATRIMONIAL at the Haymarket Theatre which is the story of Edward VIII’s abdication and would especially appeal to people over 40 who can recall the era when this story took place, and THE DAY AFTER FAIR* at the Lyric Theatre stars the lovely Deborah Kerr in a charming romantic drama.

There are quite a few shows that you can take a child to and that won’t bore you in the process. TOAD OF TOAD HALL is playing at the Jeanette Cochran Theatre, ALICE IN WONDERLAND performed by 10 foot puppets at the Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill Gate sounds interesting, and a new musical version of THE WATER BABIES is due at the Cambridge Theatre, starring Neil Reid of ‘Opportunity Knocks’ fame, with music by John Taylor, the talented composer of ‘Charlie Girl’.

If just you are involved in this theatre trip then let me first mention what is still, in my opinion, the best straight play in town, THE PHILANTHROPIST at the Mayfair Theatre. This forerunner of ‘Butley’ is also set in a college and is likewise all about one of the ‘losers in life’ and it’s an extremely enjoyable evening. Certainly the next best production in town must be LONDON ASSURANCE* at the New Theatre. If you fancy a ‘period piece’ and enjoy first class ensemble playing, this cannot be bettered. My third choice for straight theatre is undoubtedly PRIVATE LIVES at the Queens Theatre, for its witty script and star performance by Maggie Smith, but whether or not you’ll be able to get a seat is another matter entirely.

Which leaves us with the musicals and one revue. HULLA BALOO* at the Criterion Theatre is a fun evening and Rogers and Starr with their blue tinged material will give you a lot of laughs. The two religious musicals are still with us: GODSPELL* at the Wyndhams which I found delightful, and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at the Palace Theatre, which I didn’t care for but everyone else did so I might be wrong. THE DIRTIEST SHOW IN TOWN* is still running at the Duchess Theatre and though I missed a few of the jokes along the way I found it at all times enjoyable. APPLAUSE at Her Majesty’s Theatre is hard to get tickets for, but worth the effort to enjoy Lauren Bacall’s star presence, and as we go to press Tony Newley’s latest musical THE GOOD OLD, BAD OLD DAYS is about to open at the Prince of Wales Theatre and if the score is anything to go by ought to be worth the visit.

One last word regarding theatre prices which are getting higher each year. If you really find front stalls too expensive, but don’t care to be sitting a mile away, I can recommend the back dress circle at those shows marked * as not being too expensive and not too far away. Also the back stalls at Mayfair Theatre for THE PHILANTHROPIST are inexpensive and of course both the Jeannetta Cochran Theatre and Mercury Theatre with their children’s shows are reasonably priced.