Sixty years ago this week (February 25, 1960), our contributor RB Marriott wrote about the ever-present question of celebrity casting:
“Whether we like it or not, the star is still the major attraction in the theatre, still the one great asset which alone may be the turning point for a successful run. Yet the star, while praised in performance, has to put up with a good deal of criticism simply on account of being a star. The star should not be blamed for attracting audiences on that account.
“The star who is also a real actor will turn rubbish into something worthwhile as long as he is on the stage. Perhaps it is because the glamorous star system is still so firmly established, and obviously wanted by the public, that there are so few actors and actresses who can play classic parts greatly.
“When the theatre was spread all over the country there was room for Shakespeare all the year round, and the tradition of great acting gave out an atmosphere of its own.
“Players were at least inspired to strive towards greatness. In a shrunken theatre, arms are not too high and the popular play, which has to make money so that theatres can stay open, has helped to reduce the stature of acting and the aspirations of the artists.
“The stars may merit most of the praise and glory which come their way because they save the living theatre whenever they work in it, and do not choose to run away into the safe, richly rewarding arms of television and the film.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive