29 APRIL 1955, Page 18

Contemporary Arts


Stage by Stage (TV, Sunday) ought to have been much better. I could only imagine that just before the cameras switched on Mrs. Grace Wyndham Goldic said something which frightened the others into silence. One 'speaker,' Mr. G. E. Geddes, who was supposed to be telling us about the repertory theatre from a Scotch point of view, never opened his mouth for seven-eighths of the programme and when he did, said nothing special. Margaret Leighton opened hers all right, and prettily at that; but she did not say anything much either, especially if you deducted the 'you knows' and 'sort ofs.' The only people who added anything to anybody's knowledge of repertory were Sir Barry Jackson (surely the youngest-looking seventy-six in the busi- ness) and Mr. Michael MacOwan. In fact it was MacOwen who at the very last minute saved the whole thing from nullity. Mrs. Goldig seemed to be on her last sentence and pulled a frightened face at the camera when MacOwan suddenly came back on sound and, ultimately, into vision with a few lively sen- tences on the relationship between the theatre Mineral ? if Mr. Glyn Daniel had not said it all in the Spectator last week. There is much to commend this kind of thing as a labour- saving device. Why not Sir Laurence Olivier on his own Malvolio? He could not have been more unkind to himself than Mr. Daniel was to a programme for whosc success Mr. Daniel is so much responsible. All there is left to me to comment on is that both Sir Mortimer Wheeler (who knows everything) and Mr. Thomas Bodkin (who seldom knows anything —at least not in front of the camera) wear an eyeglass. Obviously there is some virtue in bringing the monocle to the millions for both manage to stem equally wise. Sir Mortimer, by the way, ought to find himself extra work as a gag writer on one of those rib-splitting comedy shows of sound radio. When China sand even a specific dynasty were mentioned last week he rapped out, quick as a flash and witty too: 'Han my foot!' which, if not quite good enough for Punch would be a riot to a Light Programme studio audience.

The documentary, Sunk Rock, about the life of a lighthouse-keeper, had the touch of sincerity upon it though I found the comic Welshman just a little too comic and by the end of the picture knew too much about the marital troubles of the lighthouse service and not quite enough about how its duties are Performed. But speaking of documentaries in general, what an oddity it is that the Corpora- tion should decide to close down a department which has so often conferred distinction on television. By losing Duncan Ross to inde- pendent production and giving Paul Rotha a suspended sentence (he will still, I gather, be used as a freelance) the big brains seem to have made it certain that such distinction will in future come by accident rather than by design. GERARD FAY