Myself and the Theatre Myself and the Theatre
Presentation Copy from John Gielgud to Hugh Hunt

Myself and the Theatre

London: Heinemann, 1929

8vo, pp. 205. Original dark green boards, lettered in gilt to spine.

First edition. PRESENTATION COPY FROM JOHN GIELGUD TO THE THEATRE DIRECTOR HUGH HUNT: 'For Hugh Hunt with my sincere thanks and good wishes John Gielgud. Oxford Romeo and Juliet 1932'.

The theatre director Hugh Hunt [1911-1993] worked extensively at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin and the Theatre Royal, Bristol, before becoming Artistic Director of the Old Vic company in London in 1951. In 1961 he was made the first Professor of Drama at Manchester University and oversaw the building of its theatre, which became the home of the professional Contact Theatre Company.

In 1932 Hunt was a 21 year old undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford. That year George Devine, the President of the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS), invited John Gielgud to direct an OUDS production of Romeo and Juliet. The cast of male undergraduates -- among them Terence Rattigan, James Lees-Milne and Hunt himself (as the Friar) -- were supplemented by two female guest stars: Peggy Ashcroft as Juliet, and Edith Evans as the Nurse. The show was the first Gielgud ever directed; three years later he directed a landmark production of the play, again starring Peggy Ashcroft, at the New Theatre, London (now the Noel Coward Theatre).

The Russian director and designer Theodore Komisarjevsky [1882-1954] had a deep and lifelong influence on Gielgud's work, particularly in his playing and producing of Chekhov and Shakespeare. In 1926 had Gielgud played Tusenbach in Komisarjevsky's production of The Three Sisters to great public and critical acclaim, and in his memoir Stage Directions (Heinemann, 1963), Gielgud writes that Komisarjevsky '...influenced me greatly, teaching me not to act from outside, seizing on obvious effects and histrionics; to avoid the temptations of showing off; to work from within to present a character, and to absorb the atmosphere and general background of a play. These were things I had never thought important before.'

Komisarjevsky's book -- part memoir, part manifesto -- is a significant gift for Gielgud to have made to Hugh Hunt, his young company member. Ninety years on, it links three names which were highly influential in the development of twentieth century Shakespearean performance.

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