Neville Coghill’s Oxford production of Shakespeare’s play: John Wain

acts on the same stage as Richard Burton, in the year Burton was ‘discovered’. So began an intermittent friendship that John Wain recalled many years later, in Dear Shadows…

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As a nineteen year-old undergraduate, John Wain took part in one of Neville Coghill’s Shakespearean College productions, taking the part of Claudio in Measure For Measure. Also in the company was a young Welsh student, soon to become a friend, called Richard Burton, playing Angelo: the two never share a stage during the play, so John Wain could not be said to have acted ‘with’ Burton, but they did crack the same boards. For a summer or two, as Burton disappeared and reappeared into the RAF as a Cadet, they were friends, and, two decades later, Burton looked him up, the one now a writer and family man living in Oxford, the other of course a transatlantic superstar.

John Wain’s acount of the friendship is given in Dear Shadows, in the chapter entitled ‘Summer, Shakespeare, and a Welsh Cadet’ and you can read it online. At one point my mother and father were guests of Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at a lunch party at the Bear Hotel, Woodstock. The only thing missing from Dad’s narrative of this lunch is something he told me himself years later, that he had no idea how he had got home from this party.

Above and Below : the original playbill from that 1944 production, back and front, the back showing the cast list (it also figures as the background  image to this website).

Will Wain

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