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Centenary celebrations to mark Gielgud's birthday

Preview by Jack Foley

THE centenary of the birth of the late actor, Sir John Gielgud, is to be marked by several events, including a West End gala at the theatre named after him.

The gala has been organised by the Royal Shakespeare Company, together with RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), where Gielgud trained, and The Shakespeare Guild, by arrangement with producers, Thelma Holt and Bill Kenwright,

It will be held on the evening of Sunday, April 18, at the Shaftesbury Avenue theatre, whose name was changed from the Globe to the Gielgud, in honour of the actor.

The evening will be hosted by broadcaster, Ned Sherrin, and will include readings and recitals by a cast of internationally-renowned actors, including Dame Judi Dench, Donald Sinden, Martin Jarvis, Ian Richardson and Paul Scofield.

It is designed as way of recognising Gielgud’s continuing legacy, with today’s theatre practitioners still looking to him as ‘an inspirational speaker of verse’, according to RSC artistic director, Michael Boyd.

Proceeds from the event will go towards a bursary for RADA students, as well as towards the voice and verse training programme for RSC actors, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Tickets are available from 0870 890 1105.


Born in London, on April 14, 1904, Gielgud was viewed by many as the final survivor of a generation of classical actors, which included Laurence Olivier and Peggy Ashcroft.

His successful career began in 1917 and continued until a month before his death, during which he appeared in countless plays and films, including the 1982 Hollywood hit, Arthur, which earned him his only Oscar for his role as Dudley Moore's butler.

Gielgud, like Olivier, was best known for his mastery of Shakespeare and, between 1949 and 1961, was a key member in the formation of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Over the years, he performed every major Shakespearean male role, including King Lear, Hamlet and Prospero, from The Tempest. He passed away on May 21, 2000, aged 96.

Other events for the centenary include:

l An informal discussion on Gielgud’s life, with Barbara Jefford, Jonathan Croall, John Miller and Richard Mangan, at the Theatre Museum on April 1, 2004, at 6pm (Tickets: 020 7943 4700);

l A lecture by Jonathan Croall, author of Gielgud – A Theatrical Life, at the National Portrait Gallery, on April 8, 2004, from 7pm (Tickets: 020 7306 0055);

l A special reading of Gielgud’s Letters, just published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, at the National Theatre, on April 14, 2004, from 2pm (Tickets: 0870 443 0096).

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