Don Carlos

leading from

 (theatre / BBC Third Programme Radio)

performed on November 11th 1959

written by Friedrich Von Schiller
Translated and adapted by Miss Clemence Dane 
 Produced by H B Fortuin
At the National Theatre 

Don Carlos.............................................. David Peel

Philip II ...................................... Leon Quartermaine

Elisabeth Valois ..................................Christine Finn

The Listener 
NOVEMBER 19 1959 
p 899-900

With the kind of devotion to the theatre that many would like to see, but are unlikely to get, in the management of a National Theatre, the department persists in popularizing the unpopular, in making known the works of foreign contemporaries, and in adding to the repertory plays that West-End managements lack the courage to perform. I do not know when Schiller's Don Carlos (Third, November 11) was last, or ever, performed in. Britain. Thanks to H. B. Fortuin, who produced it, and to Miss Clemence Dane, who translated it and adapted it for broadcasting, I am now its aficionado. To make his romantic point Schiller distorted historical fact and Philip II (Leon Quartermaine) is made more monstrous than he really was, Don Carlos (David Peel) is seen as an innocent schemer with the light of the Pantisocracy in his eyes, and Elisabeth Valois (Christine Finn) is the pathetic victim of Philip's Machiavellianism. The trappings of that heaviness which makes German drama unpalatable in Britain were heard in this production, and it was amusing to realize that even Schiller could not escape using that arch- device of the German theatre, the letter.

However, Miss Clemence Dane brought across the majesty of Schiller's lines and H. B. Fortuin had driven his cast so that they really seemed to believe in the words that they were using. The fact that history was bent a little did not matter. For Schiller used the unhappy time of Philip to write his own kind of history. When the account of the court's intrigues is ended there is left on the stage the magnificent debate between the merits of humanity and duty to a monstrous statecraft

One does not believe it possible that Don Carlos will be trapped or that the state machine will finally win. A lesser dramatist would have shirked a last act in which Don Carlos, the brave romantic hero, is struck down and in which the tyrant wins the material victory. Schiller contrives this ending and, in the German tradition, forces the audience to make the last private, didactic, decision. Mr. Fortuin hit upon the felicitous idea of interspersing the dialogue with music composed for the organ and harpsichord by Roberto Gerhard. The music heightened and enriched the words so bravely and finely spoken.

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