Archive Recordings of
The Entertainer: John Osbourne
The Caretaker: Harold Pinter
Murder in the Cathedral: T S Eliot
Recording Label: Classics for Pleasure
Far more than interesting – absorbing, valuableTHE ENTERTAINER and THE CARETAKER are towering giants of plays in the development of the UK’s post war drama. These two plays are early and key parts of a great movement of UK writing that marked an almost seismic shift in form and content for our drama. In a very different way MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL is just as important; it can also be just as lasting as Steven Pimlott’s 1993 RSC production showed.
Osborne’s play is preserved in this recording in a Palace Theatre performance, 1957. recently transferred from the Royal Court theatre. Laurence Olivier plays Archie Rice and his daughter is played by Joan Plowright.
It’s a marvellous opportunity to hear these two together, in particular a young Joan Plowright. For some, who know Olivier mainly through his WWII film of Henry V, this is a grand chance to hear a quieter Olivier, stripped of the histrionics that may often be attributed to him. We are able to appreciate a different aspect of his range and hear him working as a team member. He particularly wanted a role in the plays of one of the Court’s ‘angry young men’; he wanted to help establish them as main stream, to help ensure that they weren’t marginalised.
In 1960 THE CARETAKER transferred from the Arts Theatre (now there is an important venue!) to the Duchess theatre; this recording was made there. The original cast is still in place.
This cast includes Donald Pleasence as the down-and-out Davies; he’s in the film but his performance in the play is quite different. Here he is much more aggressive, louder, more assertive in his demands. He’s not likeable. Donald Pleasence was a remarkable performer – strange, dark, mysterious and darkly funny. We are fortunate to have this theatre performance preserved.
The other revelation this recording gives us is the audience reaction. Familiarity with Pinter’s text (and other texts) has given us, not contempt by any means, but a confidence in the way we receive it. The audience laughter here is never, ever distracting, but indicates an uncertainty of reaction. It gives the performance a marvellous edge.
Eliot’s MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL is a CD transfer from LP; it’s a studio recording of the Young Vic performance. Robert Donat has a quiet and calm authority as Becket and there are telling contributions from others – Patrick Wymark is the Third Priest, for instance.
I confess to being an Eliot fan and I marvel at the power of his words – particularly his Chorus sections. The women perform with a 1950s RP which takes a bit of getting used to, today; but even this carries its own intrinsic value.
Billie Rice: George Relph
Jean Rice: Joan Plowright
Archie Rice: Laurence Olivier
Pheobe Rice: Brenda de Banzie
Frank Rice: Richard Pasco
Graham Dodd: Robert Stephens
William Rice: Albert Chevalier
Britannia: Jennifer Wallace
Director: Tony Richardson
Mick: Alan Bates
Aston: Peter Woodthorpe
Davies: Donald Pleasence
Director: Donald McWhinnie
Murder in the Cathedral
Archbishop Thomas Becket: Robert Donat
First Priest: Alan Dobie
Second Priest: Wolfe Morris
Third Priest: Patrick Wymark
Messenger: Bruce Sharman
First Tempter: John Warner
Second Tempter: Douglas Campbell
Third Tempter: Newton Blick
Fourth Tempter: William Squire
First Knight: Paul Rogers
Second Knight: Robin Bailey
Third Knight: Daniel Thorndike
Fourth Knight: John Phillips
Women: Yvonne Coulette, Barbara Grimes, Andrea Melly, Janet Joye, Judith Nelmes, Jennifer Wallace, Barbara St Leger, Phyllida Law, Sonia Graham, Caroline Keith, Irene Sutcliffe, Dorit Welles,
Choir: Lucas Bassett, Robert Davies, Roland Lucantonio, David Sharpe, Desmond Campbell, J R Evans, David Saron, Jeremy Wilkin (musical director Christopher Whelen)
Director: Robert Helpman
Three possible links if you’d like to buy on-line
Murder in the Cathedral: