2 SEPTEMBER 1972, Page 19

Will Waspe

Spike Milligan, I learn, has been ' blackingup ' again — to play another comic Pakistani in an episode of the new series of Till Death Us Do Part for BBC-tv. This is surely a matter for the race-relations wing of Equity, which is concerned over the limited work available to its sizable membership of coloured players. It would make more sense to insist on coloured roles being played by coloured actors then to agitate for their employment in roles written for and generally associated with white actors — something that imports overtones of racialism into plays in which no such element has hitherto existed. A notable example springing to mind was the touring production of Twelfth Night a year or two ago in which Malvolio was played by a black actor, thus adding a distasteful extra dimension to Olivia's reference to one of his complexion.

Two-way traffic

Last autumn's West End flop, Ambassador, is due on Broadway, I hear, and with the same stars: Howard Keel and Danielle Darrieux. I cannot help thinking that my contention that American-financed shows unsuccessfully 'tried out' in London are never thereafter successful in the US is about to be bolstered by further proof.

The reverse procedure — the 'trying out' of shows in America by British entrepreneurs with an eventual London production in view — is rarer, of course, due to the astronomically higher production budgets over there. This is the course being adopted, however, by Bernard Delfont with his Henry VIII musical, Great Harry, which might have followed The Great Waltz into Drury Lane if Harold Fielding hadn't nipped in smartly with Gone With the Wind. Since Delfont feels that no other London theatre will do for Great Harry, I understand he is planning to mount it first in Los Angeles next spring, while he's waiting for Drury Lane.

Bernie doesn't make many financial miscalculations and has doubtless gone carefully into the average advance subscription bookings at the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Theatre, which might easily bring Great Harry into London with its production costs already covered.

Sure thing

Another shrewd financial deal is that contemplated by Paramount Pictures in relation to a new production outfit, the Directors' Company. Paramount are into the action with a 50 per cent interest, in return for which they'll finance production and distribution of the directors' films. Not any old directors, of course. The men concerned are the whizzkid trio, Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show), William Friedkin (The French Connection) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather).