11 DECEMBER 1964, Page 13

Time for Tamburlaine

Tamburlaine the Great.

(Tower Theatre, Can-

onbury.) — Chaganog.

(Vaudeville.) — Son of Tamburlaine, in fact, is one of the glories of our theatre and at last we have the resources to do it justice. Tamburlaine could have been written for Chichester. What it needs more than anything else are space and stature. It must be accepted as the two plays it is but two plays which must needs be performed and seen on the same day, and at Chichester next summer I do not think one would need fear for an audience. One of the great fallacies held about Tamburlaine is that it is a one-man show. Any- one who goes to the text and forgets the skimped versions he may have seen on stage will see how wrong this is. Take, for instance, the lines of the first virgin of Damascus, who like the Good Angel in Dr. Faustus need have no lack of power simply because she is virtuous. They have a strength and a capacity to move which are near equal to those of Marlowe's great hero-villains. On stage, however, we get per- formances of ashamed and sickmaking wetness. Again, there is the fallacy about Zenocrate. Zenocrate must be woman not girl, a Sheila Allen rather than a Jennifer Hillary. She must be sensuous and mature and not the untouchable child love. Each Tamburlaine I have seen has behaved as if he were totally sexless and it has largely been the fault of the Zenocrate.

Tamburlaine himself is king of kings. The monarchs he overthrows have themselves been scourges in their time. Any diminution of their stature is a slur on Tamburlaine's own. They must be mightily played and often the mighty lines

are provided for them. Where necessary their stature must be emphasised by the sort of splen- dour and pomp in settings and costumes that made a play out of The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Tamburlaine should be a designer's dream. Tamburlaine himself develops—from the care- free rapture of the opening to the vicious, un- stoppable cruelty after the death of Zenocrate. The easy roving Marlovian line of the first play is gone almost completely from the second. In its place is something harsher, tougher and more constricted. It is a development in tech- • nique comparable to Shakespeare's, yet without any corresponding lapses into obscurity. Tarn- burlaine too has grown older, a fact which the two-in-one productions consistently ignore.

Nor are these glories all. One thinks of the magnificence of, say, Ashcroft playing Zabina, of the sheer spectacle of it. There must be a dozen producers aching to be at work on the scene where Bajezeth is in his cage, or on the stage direction:

Tamburlaine, drawn in his chariot by Trebizon and Soria, with bits in their mouths, reins in his left hand, and in his right hand a whip with which he scourge:!: them.

I imagine, on a summer: evening at Chichester, walking round the grounds after the invigora- tion of Part One. We look forward to Part Two as to the inevitable night after day. The stage will darken, the blood will run more freely, Tamburlaine' in his grief and wrath will stand against the world—and Tamburlaine will lose. It is the very essence of catharsis.

The production at the Tower Theatre, Canon- bury, is two-in-one, and as usual it cuts the variety simply to get through the action. It is hampered by a set which, impressive enough in its own way, leaves virtually no room for the actors to move. David Rowe-Beddoe is an adequate Tamburlaine and has it in him to be better. There are further performances on Decem- ber 11 and 12 and from December 16 to Decem- ber 19, and as a reminder that Tamburlaine exists it is welcome.

Chaganog, too, is in its way something of a reminder. I had forgotten this kind of trivial, sub-talented, marshmallow entertainment still continues. Occasionally there is an idea which would make a quickie in a reputable revue. The trouble is nothing in Chaganog is quick. Son of Oblomov features the demented humour of Spike Milligan.' Sample joke: a clock chimes— 'Is that the ice-cream van?' I only wish there were more of it. Most of the time is spent pur- suing a very tedious story line. The surprising thing is the way the more orthodox humour of Bill Owen as the servant stands up to Milligan's clowning and departures from the script.