The Girl in Melanie Klein

By James Saunders
Based on the novel by Ronald Harwood

Directed by Michael Attenborough

Watford Palace Theatre, Watford
2nd - 25th October 1980

  • Frank Finlay ........ Hugo
    Elizabeth Bennett ........ Mrs Baverstock Cohen
    Susan Penhaligon ........ Niobe Grynne
    Renee Asherson ... ..... Nora
    Robert Flemyng ........ Wassler
    Frank Wylie ........ Dr Lipschitz
    Barbara Atkinson ........ Mrs Grynne
    Clare Byam Shaw ........ Nurse Snell
    John Arthur ........ Dawson
    Howard Lew Lewis ........ Lanning
    Barry McCarthy ........ Father Canning
    Alfred Hoffman ........ Mr Gerald Oglive Davis (GOD)
    Patients at The Acropolis:
    John Arthur
    Barry McCarthy
    Alfred Hoffman

    In the early seventies, Frank and two close friends, director Alan Bridges and actor Anthony Bate planned to start their own film production company. They were looking for scripts to produce and a chance meeting between Frank and Ronald Harwood in London's Kings Road led to the development of a film version of Harwood's novel The Girl In Melanie Klein. The production company was officially formed and called Hugo Films, after the central character in the novel. All was going well until in Frank's words, "The big boys got hold of it, and screwed it up, so the film never got made".

    Meanwhile and unknown to Hugo Films, James Saunders had written a stage treatment, also based on the novel. The same 'big boys' that had taken over the film, brought out an injunction to stop the play being staged, as they were making a film version. So no play, and in the end, no film.

    Some years later after the injunction had run out, in April 1980, Questors Theatre in Ealing, a long established and successful amateur theatre, staged the play. Frank saw the production and at around the same time was approach by Michael Attenborough, recently appointed as Artistic Director at Watford Theatre, as to if he would be interested in appearing in anything. Melanie Klein was suggested and accepted.

  • The play was met with good reviews in the local press but a more mixed reaction in the national press, although Frank and the cast were commended.

    "It is an extraordinary and compelling piece of theatre and I must say I preferred it a good deal not only to Mr Saunders last hit, Bodies, but also to Pinter's mental home caper, The Hothouse. Chief among my reasons for doing so is the astonishing central performance of Frank Finlay. From the moment this precise balletomaniac takes the stage, his face fixed in a vampiric glaze as he prances around with the deft fluency of a matador on speed, this is a remarkable technical display".

    Michael Coveney - The Financial Times 8/10/80

    Frank had appeared in a previous James Saunders play, two in fact, in the 1961 tour of Alas, Poor Fred and A Slight Accident. The cast also reunited him with Susan Penhaligon from the very successful TV shows Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976) and Another Bouquet (1977).

    Susan and Frank also appear in an excellent, and very faithful to the novel, BBC TV production of Count Dracula (1977) with Louis Jourdan in the title role.

    An endearingly inventive and busy quartet of inmates wreak havoc in a sparsely populated mental institution in England called The Nest. Former ballerino Hugo, who in his pre-Nest days was prone to loud shouts while on stage, chronicles the events leading up to the deposition of Dr. Lipschitz, Director of The Nest. Hugo's comrades and co-conspirators are Nora, the Queen of England, and Wassler, the Field Commander. Blacking Dr. Lipschitz' brown shoes, changing room numbers to names like ""Anna Freud"" and ""Melanie Klein"" are but elementary skirmishes. When beautiful Niobe arrives in a catatonic stupor, and is established in Melanie Klein, Wassler at first is convinced she is in cahoots with the Enemy. However, once cleared, Niobe, with the others, sets out to prove Dr. Lipschitz' madness.