From Plays and Players, June, 1959

The Dutch Courtesan


by John Marston.  First performance of this revival at the Theatre Royal, London, E.15 on April 24, 1959.  Directed by Joan Littlewood with setting by John Bary and costumes by Margaret Bary.

Master Mulligrub, GLYNN EDWARDS; Mistress Mulligrub, YOOTHA JOYCE; Cockeldemoy, HOWARD GOORNEY; Freewill, JAMES BOOTH; Malheureux, RICHARD HARRIS; Caqueteur, DUDLEY SUTTON; Tysefew, EDWARD CADDICK; Mary Faugh, RACHEL ROBERTS; Franceschina, ANN BEACH; Beatrice, CARMEL CRYAN; Holofernes, BRIAN MURPHY; Crispinella, STELLA RILEY; Nurse Putfer, LEILA GREENWOOD.


JOAN LITTLEWOOD once told me that she used no particular "method" for getting results from her actors, but that she was prepared to boil them in oil if it would help.  For the first time in my experience of Theatre Workshop at Stratford, E., I must ask her to get the cauldron ready.  It need not be boiling; just uncomfortably warm will do.

For the truth is that, by the second performance of this play, many of the cast did not know their lines and even more did not seem quite sure of their moves; and whether a trace of the "mumble school" has crept in a-purpose or only on the (I trust) temporary principle that if no one does not know what the line is it matters little if it can be heard or not, I cannot tell--but me no lika.

In the main, the cast were like the girl with the curl--either very, very good or horrid in their lack of well-rehearsed confidence, doubtless remedied within the week.  In any case, I have seen worse; but not at this theatre, where our expectations have steadily been raised by a high standard over a long period.

As tastefully slashed by Joan Littlewood, I thoroughly enjoyed this work by the A.Y.M. of Shakespeare's day, and appreciated the ripe rudery, which seemed to have most of my fellow listeners in a state of stunned disbelief of their own ears.

The production was rich and speedy, despite the efforts of Mr. Bury, whose set was exceedingly easy on the eye and remarkably hard on the actors.  It was especially trying to Ann Beach, playing the title role, whose dresses were much too long for easy transit even on the straight, and when faced with the hazards of jumping about on a gradient of approximately one in three, were apt to throw her in every sense of the phrase.

Her task was not made easier by having to talk fast in a heavy Dutch accent (incomprehensible, even off stage) but taking all these things into consideration, my faith in her power and potentialities is rather strengthened than lessened, and I am unable to decide wither it was her interpretation or my reactions or a combination of the two who left me feeling more sympathetic to the character than the author intended.

There was an outstanding performance by Howard Goorney as Cockledemoy, a prototype of Tyl Eugenspiegel, and excellent work from Yootha Joyce, Glynn Edwards and Rachel Roberts as sundry fruity characters of dubious reputations and fortunes.  When the cast have looked at the script more carefully, this play richly deserves a transfer.

--Lisa Gordon Smith