Plays and Players, 6/58
Man of Destiny
By Bernard Shaw. First performance of this revival at the Theatre Royal, Stratford, #.15, on April 15, 1958. Produced and designed by John Bury with costumes by Una Collins.
Napoleon, Robin Chapman; Giuseppe, James Booth; Strange Lady, Jill Booty; Lieutenant, Glynn Edwards.
Though at present we like to take our novels in small, short-story doses, one-act plays are still unaccountably very much out of favour. It was wise, therefore, as well as enterprising of Theatre Workshop not to add another single act work to their revival of Shaw's Man of Destiny. The reading of a selection made by Brian Antony from the Shaw-Terry correspondence used to fill up the bill not only proved fascinating in itself, but also served to render Shaw's Napoleonic frolic at the expense of British hypocrisy very much more entertaining. If only there were similar literary overtures to play before a few Shakespeare revivals!
If I say that the physical presence of Jill Booty, who read Ellen Terry, and Richard Harris, who read G.B.S., constantly got in the way of the figures that sprang so vividly from that revealing correspondence they will ask me why I didn't just close my eyes. I reply that I did, but that is not what I go to the theatre for. Probably we shall all agree with a letter reading is ideal radio material and wish the Third had more time to indulge in this pursuit.
John Bury's production of the play was agreeably lively and I confess to finding Glyn Edward's near caricature of bully, beefy, brainless Britishness delightful. Robin Chapman's General Bonaparte would never have made an Emperor of himself, but neither would Shaw's.