Ustinov has brought off a tricky treble chance as author, dieector and star. As author he has investigated various phases of one man's developmenthis life and loves between the ages of 20 and 80. As director lie has skilfully portrayed this development by parading three first-class actors in the person of first a youthful poet, then a middle-aged novelist, and an ageing popular writer. And as the star of the whole exploration he has created a fascinating old man who is brought face to face with the man he was. He has also handed out a plum part to Paul Rogers as his Victorian father ("In my day there were things that were done. and things that were not done. There was even a way of doing the things that were not done").
The whole piece is a triumph, with rib-tickling wit and down-toearth observation.
ARNOLD WESK ER'S Chips with Everything (Royal Court Theatre) is a coarse, less original piece of work, at times abominably near caricature. The first Act is a stinker, offering little more than a helping of Service life (R.A.F.) that has been sniffed around a score of times on stage and screen. The Second Act hots up well. with compassion and anger heaped against love and hatred. But the point made is heavily one-sided —for "the workers". 'The central character is an aristocrat's son doing his National Service with a streak of rebellion. Goading him are the military top dogs and the Conscript underdogs. Inevitably there is a flare-up--the fruits, says Welker, of a "class system". In the hard-working cast, Colin Campbell especially merits a salute as the Cockney buddy of the aristocrat's son. He rescues many a scene with his deep-down sincerity. T.McQ.
A Time to Laugh, by Robert
Crean (Piccadilly Theatre)
THIS is a clever piece of writing and Mr. Crean has something of the quality of his fellow American. Thornton Wilder. That the play, at, least on the evening I went. does not appear to be a success, is due not to the playwright, the director or the actors, but to the audience, and it is not often one can say that. The play and its treatment rely on a sophisticated Ca tholic audience, and, what is more, are steeped so deeply in Catholicism that it can laugh and not be outraged or shocked. A play of this kind needs an audience to feed on, and even such brilliant actors as Robert Morley, Ruth Gordon, Cleo Leine and Frances Hyland, with the direction of Tyrone Guthrie, cannot bring it to life without co-operation from the other side of the footlights. 0.11.