I SUSPECT that William Douglas Home may have established a record for living playwrights by having three new plays running in London's West End at the same time, the first of which opened recently.
At the Whitehall Theatre was In the Red. It is one of the few of his plays F have not seen since he first established himself as a playwright with "Now Barnahas" at the Buttons Theatre over 25 years ago. Last week The Kingfisher opened at the Lyric Theatre and this week Rolls Hyphen Royce opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
Mr Douglas Home has written many very successful comedies. Success is the judgment of many and is therefore not to be dismissed lightly, but individuals have rights and I believe "The Kingfisher" is William Douglas Home's best play since "The Thistle and the Rose" in which Dorothy Tutin first made her name.
A writer necessarily gives something of himself to all his creations. I suspect that the character of Cecil, the successful writer, beautifully played by Ralph Richardson, owes much to Mr Douglas Home's reminiscences of open tourer Bentleys.
The play is described as a comedy, but it is only so in a Chekovian context. It is a subtle study of two old people meeting 50 years beyond their first blossom of love. Evelyn, sensitively played by Celia Johnson, has just buried her husband and meets her old love who lives alone with his manservant, Alan Webb.
It is a measure of the stature of the play that three artists, admittedly giving excellent performances, can sustain a whole evening and never for a moment bore us.
It is not a play for the younger generation. They cannot appreciate the nuances of old age. But for those who look back at youth and try to hold hack age it is a most rewarding evening.