THEATRE / On Theatre

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'There's nothing sinister or neurotic about not working in theatre, it's just the way it has turned out.' Christopher Morahan (right) has been absent from the National for some years, busily working on TV and film. Given that he is the man who directed The Jewel in the Crown, this comes as no surprise. Yet his theatre productions have lingered in the memory. Ten years ago, he directed the stunning Wild Honey, which starred Charlotte Cornwell opposite Ian McKellen in one of his best (and funniest) performances, and featured a set by John Gunter which made audiences gasp.

Together with costume designer Deirdre Clancy, the same team is back to do Shaw's early comic melodrama, The Devil's Disciple. 'Richard Eyre phoned me and asked me if I would like to do it and I said yes.' Plays can get eaten up within the vast expanse of the Olivier open stage, but Morahan sees it as a challenge. 'It's a play of real scale. The last event in the play is where a man is about to be hanged in public. On tour in America, they used to bring in 50 townspeople for each performance for the crowd scenes.'

'I can remember seeing Shaw on newsreels. He became a 'grand old man' and after he died there was a strong reaction against him. A number of the later plays are too heavy, but the good ones are hugely theatrical. This play was his first big commercial success, it's marvellously put together and very provoking. It's exciting stuff.'

Now previewing at the Olivier, 'The Devil's Disciple' opens on Thurs

South Bank Centre (071-928-2252)

(Photograph omitted)

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