28 AUGUST 1971, Page 20

Will Waspe's Whispers

My colleague Kenneth Hurren's hunch — about the National Theatre's Ronald Pickup being the man most likely to succeed as Hamlet in our time — may have been anticipated by the BBC, who already have Pickup's Hamlet taped for Radio 3 (vide last week's Letters, and last weekend's Sunday Times); but, in fact, both are Johnny-come-lately with the idea.

I'd say the man who thought of it first was John Fernald, sometime Principal of the RADA, where Pickup trained for the stage. Back in 1968 Fernald was directing professional productions at the theatre on the campus of Oakland University in Michigan, where he also had the Drama Chair. He planned a production of Hamlet there with Ronald Pickup in the lead — and the actor was very keen to take up the offer. Ultimately, though, he was unable to get himself released from National Theatre commitments and the Michigan project was abandoned.

Eccles's cake