THE LIFE IN MY HANDS
Written by Peter Ustinov
Directed by Denis Carey
Ian McKellen in the role of John Bogle
Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham
8 January 1964
Words from Ian McKellen
An anti-capital punishment treatise by Peter Ustinov, who came to rehearsals, altering speeches and making suggestions. I hadn’t realised that a playscript could not necessarily be finished until fully rehearsed and performed. He loved (as we did) to crowd a few devotees into a dressing-room and re-tell some of his more celebrated stories.
I shared a dressing-room with the young Michael Crawford – who was Algernon in “Importance of Being Earnest” in repertoire with Coriolanus. Guthrie had spied his potential as an adept athlete when Michael, as Aufidius’s servant, tripped during rehearsal without once losing the tray of food he was carrying across the stage. Michael was apologetic but Guthrie was delighted. “See if u can do that again – only funnier this time!” Thus started Crawford’s career as gymnast, contortionist and juggler (cf Barnum etc). In our room he sang along with 45rpm discs of Beatles non-stop .