"A Celebration of Wolfit," April 25, 1993, Palace Theatre, Newark. Gala evening, part of a week-long festival to commemorate actor-manager Donald Wolfit. Directed by Richard Digby Day.
Cast (in alphabetical order): Rowland Davies, Richard Digby Day, Alexis Denisof, Leonard Fenton, Bryan Johnson, Godfrey Kenton, Barbara Leigh Hunt, Richard Pasco, Iris Russell, Ned Sherrin, Frank Thornton, Margaret Wolfit.
Twenty-five years after the death of Sir Donald Wolfit, there are efforts to rehabilitate his reputation. A week-long festival to commemorate tetchy actor-manager will be held next week in his Nottinghamshire birthplace, Newark. There are also plans for a Wolfit scholarship for young actors.
For his famous declamatory style and shameless upstaging, Wolfit has become a ripe joke in drama. One who hopes to change that is his daughter, Margaret, who will do a one-woman show at the festival. Miss Wolfit admits that her father could be difficult. "I worked in his company, playing Jessica to his Shylock," she says. "He was a hard taskmaster, and you had to fight a bit to survive on stage." She denies that he was as egotistical as "Sir" in Ronald Hardwood's play The Dresser. It is widely believed Wolfit was the model for "Sir." Miss Wolfit adds: "I was very upset about the film."
The Newark festival will also feature Wolfit contemporaries such as Godfrey Kenton, Frank Thornton (alias Captain Peacock from Are You Being Served?), and Ned Sherrin, whose recent cameo in Orlando evoked Wolfit at his greatest. When Wolfit made an entrance, others actors on stage were asked to turn their backs on the audience to look at him. But things could backfire on him. One actor, dismissed shortly before playing Seton to Wolfit's Macbeth, extracted his revenge. Instead of the line, "the Queen, my lord, is dead," he greeted Wolfit with: "The Queen, my lord, is very much better."
Another who worked with Wolfit is Sir Peter Saunders, producer. He says: "He didn't always surround himself with the best people. Some claimed that he wanted to look better himself. He was an egomaniac, but the theatre wasn't any the worse for it."
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