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John Gielgud

John Gielgud

Ducks and Drakes

Molly Keane’s play Ducks and Drakes was written under the name of M.J. Farrell.

Not Molly’s greatest success, Ducks and Drakes did at least bring Molly into contact with the thespian elite of London.

John Gielgud said to Alec Guinness “It’s very slight indeed but such good cracks and funny war dialogue that I think people will love it.” He was mistaken. Despite having veterans such as Lillian Braithwaite and Ronald Squire in the cast this leaden comedy set on a duck farm was booed by the gallery on its first night at the Apollo and mauled by the critics. “I wonder how a first rate cast came to be wasting their talents on this stuff” Philip Page typically wrote in the Daily Mail. It was hastily withdrawn.

Gielgud had hoped the comedy would “cheer me up before I descend into the pit of hell”. This description of his planned Macbeth which he had been preparing for nearly a year proved not far wide of the mark after Lear and Hamlet, Macbeth was the other great Shakespearean role he was determined to conquer.

Ducks and Drakes – First performed Theatre Royal Bath 17/11/41

Totty Barker – Ronald Squire
Gabriel Kelly – W.G. Fay
Phyllis Tree – Judy Campbell
Sorel Tree – Nora Swinburne
Judy – Kathleen Harrison
Cousin Irene Tree – Mary Jerrold
June Tree – Eileen Peel
Mrs Tree – Lillian Braithwaite
The play involved the wives of three brothers (away on military service) living on a farm

The Spectator praised the play cast and production.