Wednesday, February 13, 2008

John Gielgud's anonymous hand jobs inspire a play

One play I have marked for my attention is Nicholas de Jongh’s Plague Over England due to open on February 27 at the Finborough Theatre, London SW10. Its inspiration is John Gielgud’s conviction for opportuning “male persons for immoral purposes” (ie a quick hand job and a ta-ta for the rest of time) in witch-hunty 1953. The case nearly destroyed the actor’s career. But it didn’t of course. He got away with it for another near half century, like certain other actors I could name.

I must congratulate de Jongh on his courage: he is after all a particularly waspish theatre critic and perched at London’s premier regional newspaper, the much-revived Evening Standard. Many a thesp loathes him which is all to the good: the mummers are far too powerful these days what with their magazine deals and growing privacy laws and ghosted memoirs.

In writing his play de Jongh wanted to portray to young people Gielgud “as a victim of those viciously intolerant times; to highlight his stoicism when a deluge of moralistic fury was heaped upon him by guardians of morality, and fellow actors tried to get him expelled from Equity, the actors’ union.”

A laudable purpose at least. Just as interesting is the problems de Jongh encountered trying to get it staged – and he a household name, at least around Kensington and Soho! One director demanded £80,000 within seven days to put it on. We shall see whether it was worth the writing and the struggle.

Madame Arcati will be a fair but strict reviewer. My torch pen stands poised ...

For more about the play and tickets click here

8 comments:

Duralex said...

In 1953, the homosexual couple formed by the sparkling Jean Cocteau and the gorgeous Jean Marais had been the toast of French audiences for at least ten years. What's wrong with you Brits ? :-)

lavinia said...

Oh, how it takes me back! To July 10th 2007 on Madame Arcati to be precise.

Holy Moly! said...

best. blog. headline. ever.

Madame Arcati said...

Oh thank you Mr Holy. Congratulations on your paparazzi stand; and I hope that other matter is sorting itself out ... (oh dear ... I feel awful ...)

Duralex said...

What the hell are you talking about, mon mignon ?

Madame Arcati said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madame Arcati said...

Wouldn't you like to know!

Duralex said...

Not really, as a matter of fact. ;-)