Emlin Williams ’fame as a writer and actor holds on The night should go down, Corn is green and his incarnation Charles Dickens, who reads his novels

Semi-autobiographical Corn is green The premiere took place in 1938 and was a great success in London and New York. The play is dedicated to Miss Cook, his own inspiring teacher. “I can’t imagine,” she said, “that the public has little interest in education.” How wrong she was.

Dominic Cook’s revival for the National Theater is the first in 37 years. His idea is to bring Emlin Williams to the stage and get him to write a play as she goes, deciding what’s next. He also talks about too many stage directors.

The scene is bare. The Welsh Male Choir provides help. The staging is very stylized. There are no decorations or props for the second act.

Located in a remote, poor and illiterate Welsh mining village in the late 19th century. Children end up in the mine at the age of 12. With the arrival of Miss Moffat, a middle-aged English maiden, things are getting better. She sets up a school in her home and finances it out of her own pocket.

She understands that one of the boys, Morgan Evans, is an exceptionally talented student and has been preparing him for two years to receive a scholarship to Oxford. He is both outraged and appreciates her control over him. His future is almost ruined when he conceives a teenage girl and the girl wants him to marry her. This is an unsuitable match; even her mother does not love her.

Miss Moffat offers Morgan an education. No – and Emlin Williams was very insistent on this – NO romantic connotations. Actors such as Sybil Thorndike, Ethel Barrymore, Deborah Kerr, and in the film – Beth Davis and Catherine Hepburn.

Miss Moffat now plays Nicole Walker, who is resolutely, independently, absolutely unsentimental. She has a wonderful scene when she says that Morgan’s duty is not to the girl, the baby or herself, but only to himself. Morgan Davis was played by Ivan Davis, who made his professional theater debut. He is first class. So is Gareth David Lloyd as Emlin Williams

Initially the local squire sees no point in raising children who are going to become miners, but Miss Moffat is easily flattered by his arrogance to have her sponsor Morgana. Rufus Wright plays the role of a squire with a pleasant comic hue. Alice Or-Ewing flutters just as well as the gentleman who loves him.

The National Theater has a hit.

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Robert Tanitch reviews Emlyn Williams’s The Corn is Green at The National Theatre/Lyttleton

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