Frost, Robert James (1983)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This thesis is a study of the stage history of six plays and three seasons of Shakespeare at the Old Vic as they are related to one man: Sir John Gielgud. Through the assembly of various sorts of evidence ranging from promptbooks, sound-recordings, reviews, programmes, interviews, correspondence, designer's blue-prints, I have attempted to reconstruct the performances and the productions in order to assess Gielgud's contribution as a Shakespearean actor and director. The plays looked at are Richard II, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear and The Tempest, the Old Vic seasons those from 1929 to 1931. Each chapter, except for the first on the Old Vic which considers a repertory of productions of different plays performed by the same company, examines a series of separate productions of one play in chronological sequence to highlight developments in Gielgud's technique over the years and his response to the more widespread changes in the tradition of the stage interpretation of Shakespeare. So the selection of roles and productions was governed by the idea of examining trends and to set Gielgud's work in the context of the accumulating tradition of the play's interpretation in performance, not to look at single productions only. The resulting selection focuses on Gielgud, the actor and director, at various points throughout his entire career. The earliest production considered is in 1929, the latest in 1974.
The conclusion then attempts to draw Gielgud's involvement with Richard II, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear and The Tempest together to establish an overall view of their relationship in the light of the principal currents of change in the theatre from the early part of this century to the present day. The appendices at the back list the full range of Gielgud's Shakespeare, including his film appearances, and the dates of openings with complete casts of the productions concentrated on in the text.
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