19 JUNE 1953, Page 14


The Private Life of Helen. By Andre Roussin and Madeleine Gray. (Globe.)—Eastward Ho ! By Ben Jonson, George Chapman and John Marston. (Mermaid : Royal Exchange.).

I HAVE often found " private lives " of Helen of Troy disappointing because they reach the verge of important revelations and then draw back in a frustrating way. I have always wanted to know whether the beautiful Helen found the game worth the candle, but nobody has ever told me. Was it? I doubt it'. So does Diana Wynyard in Roussin's thumbnail, sketch of what might have happened at Menelaus's house a er the Trojan war. Can her husband be con- vinced that she was not ruined in Troy? She thinks not; but there is an obvious conflict with Menelaus on this point, which provides the sole reason for this insubstantial comedy which quickly resolves itself into a discussion group on Helen's past and how it affects her future. A hint of this is lightly dropped in mime when Telemachus enters at the end. The part of Helen in any play—even the dumb one in Doctor Faustus—is a challenge to the actress not only to be beautiful but in other ways to make it:

No marvel though the angry Greeks pursu'd With ten years' war the rape of such a queen, Whose heavenly beauty passeth all compare and Miss Wynyard triumphantly accepts the challenge. Perhaps her acting alone is sufficient to support a piece which otherwise seems hardly a sufficient ration of entertainment for a night in the theatre, in spite of strong support from Cecil Parker as Menelaus (no dotard but grievously perplexed) and Arthur Macrae as chorus- gatekeeper. Mr. Macrae also did the English version of the play and directed it.

PERHAPS I expected too much and others too little, because I frequently found myself sitting glum while everybody around me was laughing loudly at this jaunt into Jacobean comedy by Bernard Miles's com- pany. I expected more because I have! seen Miles as theatrical body snatcher doing wonders with an exhumation of,Thomas Middleton. In this production he is much in the background, leaving Joan Swinstead to direct and himself to play a fat but very short part as Slitgut. I do not find such' modesty in-nn actor-manager at all becoming, especially when his company is one that needs leadership. Fulton Mackay is an energetic roaring boy as Quicksilver, the imprudent, but not exactly idle, apprentice, and Gordon Whiting a good steady foil to him as Golding the industrious .one. Their master, Touchstone, played by Graham Squire is a sound solid citizen, a character who has been heaven-sent to comic dramatists ever since the Moralities. The Mermaid stage comes well out of this difficult piece of production, especially when all three levels of it