24 OCTOBER 1958, Page 15

Te levision

Barrie on a Bar-Stool


By PETER THE wrangle could scarcely seem more marital, until the man threatens: 'If you ever de- ceive me . . .' and the woman, hearing a door open, warns: 'Take care, here comes my husband!' Henri Becque's cele- brated coup drew gasps from Par s audiences in 1885; seventy-three years on, it Went for very little when La Parisienne was re- vived by A-R last Friday. Some fault lay with the stars. Clotilde was one ei Rdjane's great parts, Mane of whom C. E. Mo Itague wrote: 'The craft which spoke in her nice and her eyes was the sum and perfection of what, in all but the noblest ages, most men have wished women to have instead of high intellect.' Those who have seen Feuillere in the part may echo his words. It is a league in which Miss Greta Glot can hardly compete, and quizzically attrac- tive though she can look, Clotilde who should be a r lue-in-porcelain became here a ditto in Ceti !qt. Equally, as the lover, Hugh Burden areoted with all the subtlety of a semaphore. In 18g5 the great French critic, Jules Lemaitre, in- sisted on the play's realism : 'The things they say are things we all say, clearly, naturally.' In 1958 this had become costume farce. V .`-"t the reason is not simply a matter of the Dl et dating. (Indeed, serial-makers might do *ell to cast an eye towards Zola.) The real difti :ulty is surely that TV's make-believe is quite different from the theatre's. :TV drama, when not hist transposed theatre, demands total identifica- tion of audience with actors. This is why melo- d !Jou to las like Jon Manchip White's recent The ,• r of the Rat (BBC), about a war-maimed civil 4orv Int encountering his former Jap captor on a 441! delegation, was so effective, as was ABC's /can Destroy the Sun, about a scientist seemingly 4ble to do just that. (There really is nothing more uromatic than a second-hand ticking towards the rain ne!) But conversely, artificial comedy will ne't !Corfle across, though the BBC is clearly deter- last :d to produce early Maugham down to the Writer's Notebook-jotting in the hope of Provi -n8 otherwise. outThe sad result of this is that style tends to go )f the window, especially in comedy playing. Whi the ehall farce, yes; Congreve, no. Sadder still, L nass audience, untrained in the theatregoer's aohit of making allowances, must have Macbeths I. Who can fight or real negro Othellos, which is r (fees apart) classics on TV are usually played now actors whose only adequacy is of face: for with can those who think glamour synonymous

b Diana Dors ever be brought to accept Edith is's Cleopatra on their screens?

saA Min ABC's Hollywood-studded. version of r°Ya WS The Time of Your Life last Sunday, ()tiered yet another reminder that what succeeds the stage (for which this production was +110u a 'net' at the Brussels Exhibition) seems over- cti filly g on the small screen. Only Ann Sheridan had realised the need for adjustment. Otherwise sequence of inconsequential semi-dramas in a San Francisco honky-tonk got by, as it always has done, by virtue of its warm, cartoon-characterisa- tion and frequent good lines, without altering my view of Saroyan as Barrie on a bar-stool. Philip Savile's production was notably smooth; Franchot Tone was agreeably undistinguished as the wealthy stranger who sets everyone to rights; Susan Stras- berg made a glamOurised gamine of the girl described as 'a two-bit whore'—but then I, weary quickly of what the same Lemaitre once called `cette espece de sainte du trait air.'

For the rest, almost every time I turned on my set this fortnight I was confronted by interviews conducted on the curious ritual basis now in general use, whereby the compere names his guest, who is seen sitting in the background, then gets up, walks over to him, shakes hands and asks him how he does, as though they had not been rehearsing together all afternoon. In the admir- able Monitor there even seemed to be chalk lines on the floor to guide Mr. Weldon. In Panorama Mr. Chataway found his own way, but was sur- prisingly ponderous once he got there for one so spring-heeled; the whole programme iladly needs a dash of sparkle and wit if it is not to ossify into a rather pompously conducted travel scheme for its contributors.

No man nowadays seems more at home in a studio than Dr. Bronowski, whose late-night TV tutorials on Tuesday I find absorbing. How blandly, the other night, he presented examples of animal single-mindedness, such as a hen seek- ing its young, then at the end slipped in shots from Little Rock and Notting Hill to point how single- minded obsession makes animals of people. The case against racial intolerance can seldom have been more intelligently and incontrovertibly demonstrated. This was adult education at its most entertaining. Child education on TV is a subject to which I would like to return when there is more ground for making an assessment; .at present ITV Schools seem to be having a Dordogne Festival, a rather dull documentary about that fascinating river being shown no fewer than four times each week.

FOOTNOTE: Concerning Christopher Mayhew's allegations last week of rigged television inter- views—why can he not give us exact details? One presumes he has already done so to Sir Robert Fraser and Sir Ian Jacob, the Director-Generals of 1TA and BBC.