22 JULY 1972, Page 23

Will Waspe

One of those vital cast changes which, in the West End theatre take place almost in secret, has been quietly effected at Her Majesty's Theatre, where the incomparable Elaine Stritch — the chief, and to some deadly judges the only, reason for seeing Company — left the company last weekend. Marti Stevens has taken over the part, a shrewd choice for she has been in the show with Stritch since it opened.

The male lead, Larry Kert, is leaving next week, and two weeks after that Dilys Watling bows out. Miss Watling's replacement is Gracie Luck, one of London's resident Americans, whose first theatre job this is since getting her Equity permit. Miss Luck has been keeping herself busy running a travel and accommodation agency, mostly for visiting Americans, and doing very nicely. Show business being as precarious as it is, I'm sure she won't be giving that up.

Inside job

Drama critics sitting glumly through the John Mortimer play, I Claudius, last week were able to console themselves at least with the knowledge that they did not have to share the predicament of Helen Dawson. She was there to review the work of her Observer colleague, knowing that it was going to take the paper's review feature spot, and everyone wondered whether her tact would be up to it, There was no cause for concern. Miss Dawson (would you believe?) found the dreary thing "buoyant and imaginative" with "robust dramatic appeal," "magnetically communicating the essential pleasure of the Graves books" and "an altogether entertaining saga."

Outside job

I am glad to see that Kenneth Montgomery, the young British conductor passed over in favour of Paavo Berglund as principal conductor with the Bournemouth Symphony (you will recall the flurry of indignant correspondence following my revelation of it), does not lack international recognition. Montgomery has been conducting L'Ormindo and Ariadne auf Naxos at the Holland Festival, and so impressed the Dutch that he was asked to be guest conductor with their national radio orchestra for three weeks.

Blank look

My observation last week that ITV's ratings from JICTAR only record how many sets in the ' sample ' are switched on, and not whether anyone is looking at them, is amusingly supported by an item in the current Private Eye. The paper reports that on an evening when no ATV programmes were transmitted from Birmingham due to a studio strike, the JICTAR ratings were exactly the same as on a normal evening.