1942: Robert Donat and his modern take on Shakespeare
ROBERT Donat had already built up an excellent reputation through his stage and screen work – including, of course, the films The 39 Steps and Goodbye, Mr Chips, for which he won an Oscar – by the time he appeared at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal in August 1942.
In Veronica Haigh’s To Dream Again, the three-centuries-dead Shakespeare, played by Donat, comes back to earth.
“Miss Haigh’s Shakespeare,” wrote our theatre critic, “comes trailing clouds neither of glory nor of mystery. He might be any longdead actor primed with Shakespearean quotations ...
“Mr Donat is more successful. He appears first of all along with Francis Bacon, clad in Elizabethan dress ... Coming down to England at the time of the Battle of Britain, he takes the guise of a Dane, retaining the auburn beard, but suffering the torture of a stiff brown lounge suit.”
The play made much ado with the Bard’s “ignorance of modern customs, speech, and science”, and presented him as a comic figure.
“Even in a solemn and preposterous pow-wow with a psychologist in a prison cell, Mr Donat cannot disguise the humour in poor Will’s predicament ... [he] makes all he can of the comedy, while suggesting that there is a good deal of the roast beef of Old England in his port.”
Donat is pictured above during a scene with A.e.matthews and Mary Jerrold.