• Archives
  • January5th

    Rehearsing the fight scene

    Hilarity from the Old Vic & Old Vic Company’s Fine Shakespeare have been added to the Vivien Leigh Article Archive. Both articles review “Twelfth Night” when it appeared in Wellington, New Zealand during the 1961-62 Old Vic Tour. Both reviews compliment the men actors, set, and costumes but criticize Vivien Leigh’s Viola. See below:

    The Wellington Opera House last night stamped and clapped its pleasure at the opportunity to see an Old Vic company once again.

    The opening performance of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” fully deserved the applause it received. For this bawdy comedy of transvestism–a girl disguised as boy with its entanglements and rathermore difficult disentanglements– which borders on the tedious in lesser hands, rose last night to moments of rich hilarity.

    Its more fantastic and hence less acceptable moments that demand too much of the credulity of a modern audience were lost in the general fluidity of Robert Helpman’s taut direction and the fine, polished technique of the east.

    Indicative of this, and of the audience acceptance, was the fact that the play needed no more than one interval in its two-hour passage– a lesson for local producers.

    If it had a disappointment, perhaps we ourselves are to blame in always expecting greatness from its principal lady, Vivien Leigh.

    There can be no question of the magnetism of Miss Leigh’s stage presence, nor of the quality of her experience, and yet last night, in spite of the clearly designed scheme to keep her at the centre, Miss Leigh was merely a bright star among other stars, rather than a brilliant sun. CONTINUE READING

  • January24th

    We conclude Macbeth Week with 19 new photos in the Photo Archive– to view them click HERE (registered users only). Also, I’ve added a short Macbeth page on It can be viewed at I hope you’ve enjoyed Macbeth week and reading/seeing all about this spectacular theatre production. If only time machines actually existed…

  • January22nd

    Today we conclude the Macbeth ‘Interviews with Actors’ with Lee Montague. Please note that this interview were conducted by Michael Mullin.

    Lee Montague: Seyton

    Lee Montague studied under Glen Byan Shaw at the Old Vic School and joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company in 1955. Besides acting in Shakespearean and contemporary plays, he has often appeared in films and television. See Who’s Who in the Theatre, 15th ed., 1972, p. 1199.

    L.M. I know that Glen from the school was very meticulous in his plotting [blocking] of the play…. He had such a strong framework (obviously there’s room for maneuver within it), but he probably preempted that–even that– by suggestions of his own and because of the strong framework there were only certain channels you could go.

    Q. He tells you where he wants you to go and to stand?

    L.M. To within a few inches. He was pretty strict on it. And the thing is that in itself it would mean nothing to an actors, but I was brought up literally in his school so he never just said “Go there” as lots of other directors do, and I’ve never in fact got over his way of teaching, which I think is admirable. It wasn’t just a question of “Go there.” He would provide a reason, a motivation, a very good motivation. And at the time you couldn’t really in a way argue with it. He wouldn’t give you the deepest motivation. He’d give you a motivation that was sufficient enough for you to go there.

    Q. That would satisfy you.

    L.M. That would satisfy you, which would satisfy you at the time. When in fact you started to drop the book and stated to talk about it and really rehearse it, then he would provide you with even more, and deeper motivations.

    Q. Can you remember much about rehearsals itself?

    L.M. The thing I do remember–there was a lot of work done with Vivien. I think they felt happier rehearsing it away from all the other actors. There’s rehearsal room at Stratford [where] she and Olivier and Glen would rehearse their main scenes, which they felt happier about. It was a very strict rehearsal schedule. But then with Glen it always was…. We’d always have a read-through.

    Q. Just with book in hand?

    L.M. Oh yes. Even though Olivier would know the lines he’d still read it, and he’s ask us to, say it quite quietly–no acting at all–just quite quietly go through it. And then he’d start to plot [block] it. I don’t think I’m making this up. I mean, it would probably last, the actual plotting of the play– he wouldn’t just give moves. He obviously would talk at length about the play and about his feelings of what it should be finally. And when it came to plotting it again, it wouldn’t just be a question of “You move there, and you move there,” and right on to the next scene. A certain time would be taken over it.

    Read More | Comments

  • January21st

    As we continue Macbeth Week here, I thought it fitting to hear from the actors themselves. Please note that these interviews were conducted by Michael Mullin. Part II coming tomorrow!

    What was it like to act in Shaw’s Macbeth? Interviews with the actors who played Lady Macduff, Malcolm, and Seyon [coming soon] give us a different perspective on Shaw’s work and on the play. Maxine Audly, who already had considerable experience when she came to play Lady Macduff, points out some of the problems the play holds for the actor. From Trader Faulkner, we get a sense of what it meant to be a young, relatively inexperienced actor working his way toward an understanding of Malcolm’s character– and finding himself uncomfortably at odds with the director. Lee Montague, who was Shaw’s student at the Old Vic School, explains Shaw’s methods, Olivier’s approach to Macbeth, and his own approach to the part of Seyton.

    Maxine Audley: Lady Macduff

    Maxine Audley, who had been with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company during the 1950 season, later played Lady Macbeth at the Edinburgh Festival. Besides extensive Shakespeare acting, she has often acted in contemporary plays and films. See Who’s Who in the Theatre, 15th ed., London 1972, pp. 482-83.

    In Rehearsal

    Q: Tell me, what were the rehearsals like?
    M.A: Well I do remember that the fist reading was electrifying, you know.
    Q: That’s not the usual thing is it?
    M.A: No. There were two electrifying runs through. One was the first reading of his [Olivier's] part– I don’t think anyone else was quite up to it. It was electrifying, magical. I crept out. Big rehearsal room, a little bit echoey, and it was magical. The other outstanding rehearsal I personally wished could have been a performance was the last run-through in ordinary clothes, before the dress rehearsal, which was electrifying. And I thought, “Goddammit, now we’re going to get into all those clothes and they’re going to get in the way,” which they did, so the first couple of dress rehearsals were terrible. But that was magical, so exciting.

    Read More | Comments

  • January19th

    There are four new articles in the Vivien Leigh Article Database today, and they all are related to the 1955 Macbeth production starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. They come from the NY Times, Time magazine, and Plays & Players magazine.

    There seems to be varying opinions on Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Lady Macbeth. For example, Time magazine describes Vivien’s Lady Macbeth as “pale and exquisitely lovely Lady Macbeth does at least explain why Macbeth married her, a mystery that too many Lady Macbeths leave unelucidated.” The Observer, on the other hand, described her as: “more niminy-piminy than thundery-blundery, more viper than anaconda.” Vivien, herself, had this to say in an interview: “But there is a marvelous–there is a beautiful little series of books about Shakespeare’s characters before the plays start. For instance, Glen Byam Shaw has them. They’re written by a woman in the last century. And Viola, for instance, was very helpful to me because there was the whole of Viola’s life before the play starts, and the fact that she’d seen Orsino when she was a small girl, so when she saw him suddenly at court–when she comes to Illyria–she’s already in love with him, which starts her on the right foot. And there’s a marvelous account of Lady Macbeth before ‘Macbeth’ starts, about how Macbeth rode up to the castle when she was a young woman and how she fell in love with him. Because, to me, ‘Macbeth’ is a great love story and I’d never found Lady Macbeth a monster. I think she’s a perfectly understandable human being, and I adored playing it. It’s one of my favourite roles.” I’m sure we all wish we could have seen Vivien as Lady Macbeth on the stage or perhaps on the big screen (it was talked about but sadly never transpired).

    Here are the new Macbeth articles:
    Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in ‘Macbeth’ in England’s Stratford
    More than Beauty
    Shakespeare by the Oliviers
    The Theater: Bigger than Life