Edward Gordon Craig: Designs for the Theatre

Edward Gordon Craig: Designs for the Theatre

Edward Gordon Craig: Designs for the Theatre

Edward Gordon Craig: Designs for the Theatre

Excerpt

It was as an actor that Gordon Craig approached the whole problem of the Theatre. This is too often forgotten. Considering his later fame, it is as well to remember that for eight years he was a member of Irving's company at the Lyceum ( 1889-97) struggling with all the others to emulate Irving and in doing so refusing to use the rich natural gifts with which his mother, Ellen Terry, had dowered him. For Irving's style, 'wonderful mosaics of bits of acting thought out touch by touch', was a vehicle for his own extraordinary talents, but useless as a model for others to follow.

In the summer vacations from the Lyceum, Craig had played some thirty or forty parts, ranging from farce to leading Shakespearean roles, before he turned seriously to production. Hamlet he had first tackled in September 1894, at Hereford, when he was twenty-two, playing Romeo for the first time on the previous night, and thereafter he played Hamlet whenever he got the chance. In 1897, owing to the sudden illness of Nutcombe Gould, he was called on to play the part for the last six performances of the season with the Ben Greet Company at the Olympic Theatre, Westminster. 'Can you play Hamlet to-night?' wired Greet, and Craig, asking for the necessary permission from Irving, got the apt reply, 'The readiness is all'. His performance is remembered with delight by those who were fortunate enough to see it. He had all the gifts: voice, presence, intelligence, something of his mother's radiance and grace of movement, and the inherited talent for acting natural to one born in the theatrical purple who had been perfectly at home on the stage since earliest boyhood.

Bernard Shaw, with his usual acumen, was quick to see in him a young actor who would be useful for his new comedy, You . . .

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