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Rod Taylor, On Stage

Rod Taylor was a talented artist who had a love of acting, but any wavering he did between the two crafts ended after seeing Sir Laurence Olivier in a performance of "Richard III." Taylor recalls:

Without having seen him in an Old Vic touring production in Australia, I might have gone on to qualify in engineering, in which I already had some technical awards as a student. But Sir Larry's performance that night clinched the deal. After seeing him, I knew I would never be anything but an actor.

-- Film Review magazine, April 1971

When Taylor left art school at age 17, he dabbled on the edge of theater, creating window displays for a department store and studying for nearly a year with the Independent Theatre School. But he realized that actual experience in acting was the only way to learn, so he quit the school and made his break professionally.

I learned my craft the right way. Nobody picked me up in a gas station and said, 'You should be a movie star.' ... I played hooky from art school and went to a place like Actors' Studio and worked at my craft. Then I went into the theater and started from the bottom and worked at that. I gradually got bigger and better roles. But I learned and worked damn hard.

-- Screenland, March 1961

Here's a glimpse at Rod Taylor's hours upon the stage in Australia, starting with comments from one of Taylor's co-stars in "The Witch":

Barbara Brunton ... was irritated by [Taylor's] often erratic behavior through rehearsals, but when the show began, she found that he gave a wonderful feeling of reliability on stage. "He was one of the most giving actors I ever worked with. You had that feeling of how strongly he was working with you. But he was never a classical actor."

-- The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama




Mercury Theatre Wikipedia



Rod Taylor mingled work in theater and radio during the early 1950s in Sydney, rising to unprecedented fame.

But when he won the Rola Award for his radio acting plus the Australian critics' award for his work in theater, Taylor noted:

I had reached the point in my Australian career where I was a fly in a bottle. I could go up and I could go down. It was fantastic. I was doing about 40 starring roles in radio -- there was no television. I'd work in radio, then, at night, I'd be at the theater. I was about as big as I could get in Australia.

-- TV Radio Mirror, January 1961 

Rod's Theatrical Roles


Julius Caesar (October 1950)
Independent Theatre. Play by William Shakespeare.
Cast: Bruce Beeby (Brutus), Allan Trevor (Cassius), Moray Powell (Caesar), Walter Sullivan, Llody Berrell, Rod Taylor, Charles Tingwell.

Home of the Brave (October 1950)
Independent Theatre. Play by Arthur Laurents. Produced by Peter Sainthill.
Cast: Leonard Thiele, Charles Tingwell, Ken Fraser, Russell Jarrett, Rodney Taylor and Alan Harvey.

The Sun [Sydney], review Oct. 22, 1950
Against a background of Yanks at war in the Pacific, the play makes a real plea for racial tolerance, with a strong subplot about the use of psychiatry. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks. The six characters are skillfully drawn by the author and excellently portrayed by the cast. ... Charles Tingwell, Russell Jarrett and Rodney Taylor all make very real people of Sergeant "Mingo," Corporal "T.J." and 26-year-old Major Robinson, respectively.

Misalliance (September 1951)
John Alden Co./St. James Hall. Play by George Bernard Shaw. Produced by John Appleton.
Cast: Therese Desmond, Edward Howell, Muriel Steinbeck, Marie Clarke, Owen Weingott, John Ewart, Richard Trent, Rodney Taylor, Hal Rogers.

Sydney Morning Herald, review Sept. 10, 1951:
The John Alden Company's Misalliance at St. James' Hall on Saturday was quite the most exuberantly skilful and sharp pointed performance of a Shaw comedy seen in Sydney for many years, a thing of sheer delight. ... For all-round strength, the cast is the finest I have ever seen in a non-professional production in Sydney. ... Rodney Taylor was an exemplary pattern of "escapist" youth.

The Vigil (October 1951)
John Alden Co./St. James Hall Play by Ladislas Fodor. Produced by Neil Hutchison.
Cast: Alan Trevor, Alan White, Ellen Morgan, Rosemary Miller, Robert Cubbage, Paul McNaughton, Alan Herbert, Rodney Taylor.

The Twins (February 1952)
Mercury Theatre repertory production. Play by Plautus.
Cast: Lloyd Berell, Rod Taylor, Ruth Cracknell, Walter Sullivan, Jan Boulken, John Brunskill.

Comedy of Errors (February 1952)
Mercury Theatre repertory production. Play by William Shakespeare.
John Kay, director of the Mercury, produced "Comedy of Errors." After a long search for actors both similar enough in appearance and skilled enough to play the two pairs of twins, he cast Rodney Taylor and Walter Sullivan as the two Antipholuses and Al Thomas and John Ewart as the Dromios.

Sydney Morning Herald review, Feb. 29, 1952:
As the principal twins in both plays (The Twins and Comedy of Errors), Rodney Taylor and Walter Sullivan were well equipped to extract all the primary juices of comedy from their predicaments yet neither seemed able to find the grace and easy playfulness of manner and speech that could have spirited away the tediousness from their raucous shouts and spluttering exhibitions of outrage.

The Witch (August 1952)
Mercury Theatre production.
By John Masfield, based on the Norwegian play by Wiers Jenssen.
Cast: Rodney Taylor (Absolom Pedersson), June Wimble, Barbara Brunton (Anne Pedersdotter), Roger Climpson, Ruth Parkhill, Mary Hunt, Lesley Robson, Clare Hutchison, Robert Mowatt, Barry Cookson, Roy Morgan.

Sydney Morning Herald review, Aug. 30, 1952:
[The Witch] succeeds theatrically because of its very simplicity, because it is a straightforward example of yarn-spinning in dramatic form. ... Sound characterisations, never marred by melodramatic antics, also came from Roger Climpson, Rodney Taylor, Barry Cookson, and June Wimble.

They Knew What They Wanted (November 1952)
Mercury Theatre production. Play by Sidney Howard.
Cast: Henry Gilbert (Tony Patucci), Margaret Christensen (Amy), Rod Taylor (Joe, an Italian vineyard worker).

The Happy Time (June 1953)
Mercury Theatre production. Play by Samuel Taylor.
Comedy about a close-knit French-Canadian family.
Cast: Owen Weingott, Lloyd Berrell, Rod Taylor, Irene Harspur, Rosamund Warren, David Butter, Ken Warren.

Sydney Morning Herald review, June 11, 1953:
The Happy Time opened at the Mercury Theatre on Tuesday night for a limited season of three weeks. Judging from the audience's hilarious reaction, it could easily run for as many months. ... As a philandering uncle, Rodney Taylor dominated most of the performance with his gay, nicely timed buoyancy.

The Conscience of the King (May 1954)
A drama recital at the Theatre for Playwrights. Cast: Rod Taylor and Dinah Shearing.