5 MAY 1961, Page 19


Hight by Name


Scofield, surely, could hardly be more unsuited to the part; everything in his voice proclairrls him wry and thoughtful. Indeed, for much of the per- formance, be is unconvincing, sometimes down-

right bad : in the 'popinjay' speech, for instance, he gets stuck on a single inflection which he repeats helplessly, line after line, till one fears for his sanity. Yet there are other times when the true adrenalin of passion races, when anger mounts in him like a hawk, to stoop at last With awful sud- denness on some inoffensive phrase, and shake the living daylight out of it in a way the amateurs, for all their intelligence, could never manage.

Scofield apart, the Henry IV recordings (four discs each) are sound and a little uninspiring. The Falstaff is likeable, though rather light and dry; the Hal is unusually good, but even a good' Hal does not seem enough to centre the plays on. The King is angrily plangent, and the Shallow an academic fusspot. One thing particularly strikes me here: why has Thurston Dart, whose music is otherwise so apt, assembled such a threadbare collection of sennets to punctuate these recordings? They may lie authentic, but they are lamentably tinny and unhelpful. On the other hand The Tempest (three discs) has ex- cellent music, and altogether comes off well. Michael Hordern makes an attractive and formidable Prospero, and the scenes between him and Miranda glow' with real affection. Trinculo, Caliban and Antonio are all good, and the only bad blot is an odiously sentimental Ferdinand.

Of the latest three issues, Hamlet (five discs) perhaps has most to commend it, though the in- terpretation of the Prince is rather a pill to take: he is presented as a totally humourless young Prussian, snapping neurotically at the living. and showing tenderness only to ghosts, skulls and corpses. This seems unnecessarily perverse. But he is supported by a fine Wolfit-like Claudius (Patrick Wymark) bubbling with evil geniality, a very touching Ophelia (Jeannette Sterke), R deeply impressive Ghost (William Devlin) and Miles Malleson's famous and charming Polonius The best things in the Midsummer Night's Dream (three discs) are the Hermia and Helens of Jeannette Sterke and Prunella Scales; too many of the other parts are poorly done. There is an unendearing Bottom and a tired elderly Puck. Malleson's Quince is jolly but over elaborate. Timon (three discs) provides some exciting scenes. Peter Woodthorpe's Apemantus is alive with squalid energy, spitting his tor• ments with camel-like precision. 1 find William) Squire mis,ast as Thrion; he is noble in his rage, but elsewhere he seems too young and enunciates too beauteously. The Alcibiades (Tony White) excellent. and the play's dramatic defects matter