(Matt Trueman’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/13.)
Ronald Pickup (played Rosalind at the Old Vic in 1967)
I was watching a rehearsal in the Old Vic when John Dexter, one of Laurence Olivier’s associate directors at the National, leaned over and said: “Get a fucking pair of legs. You’re going to play Rosalind in a year’s time.” It seemed absurd at first. No one had done an all-male Shakespeare – not in modern times, at least – and some of the women in the company thought it a bit off. Rosalind is one of the greatest female roles. What was it doing going to a fella?
Actually, it was deadly serious. It was 1967 and everything was freeing up. Androgynous culture was coming through: David Bowie and the whole gender-bender thing. Guys looked more like girls than ever before. Sir Laurence, who I worshipped, wasn’t sure about it. He could be quite conservative and we knew he was nervous, so there was a huge pressure on it. It was 20 years after the war, but not a lot had changed until then.
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