The Miracle Worker

The Miracle Worker: Original London West End Production 1961

The Miracle Worker: London Revival (Westminster Theatre) 1988

The Miracle Worker: 1st London West End Revival 1994

Play by William Gibson adapted from his 1957 television play of the same name which was based on Helen Keller's autobiography The Story of My Life. The epic life story of Helen Keller, struck deaf, dumb and blind in her infancy, and Annie Sullivan who fought against all odds to achieve the miracle of teaching Helen language and understanding. A play that is at times deeply moving, at times wonderfully funny and at all times a tingle with theatrical excitement.

Original London West End Production 1961

Opened 9 March 1961, Closed 7 May 1961 at the Peacock Theatre (was Royalty Theatre)
Transferred 9 May 1961, Closed 28 October 1961 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast featured Anna Massey as 'Annie Sullivan', Janina Faye as 'Helen Keller', John Robinson as 'Captain Keller', Dilys Hamlett as 'Kate Keller', Derek Fowlds as 'James Keller' with David Waller and Ann Wilton. Directed by Peter Coe with designs by Sean Kenny.

"There are three levels at which one can consider The Miracle Worker, and on two of them, it is hardly worth five minutes consideration. I have a nasty feeling that the air elsewhere is thick this morning with 'the triumphant affirmation of the human spirit,' but there is no such thing here. There is in the story, of course, but the play does not even begin to go deeply enough into the almost incredible will that Annie Sullivan must have had: there is no suggestion that here was one of the most remarkable women of all time. Secondly, one might treat it seriously as a play, a drama, which speaks the tongue that Shakespeare spoke. But one cannot. Too many of the situations are cliches, too many of the lines, the characters, the scene-building, the curtain lines and stage pictures. So they were, perhaps, in the incredible story, and drama is selection, but here the selection is throughout too sharp, too cunning. So we go down to the third level, and on that - where, make no mistake, the author fully intends it to be - The Miracle Worker works its own small miracle. For it is THEATRE - lurid, barnstorming, sentimental, meticulously-worked, hand-wrought, built-to-last, amazingly effective, theatre. Mr Gibson makes us cry when he wants us to, laugh when he wants us to, sweat when he wants us to... Mr Gibson, in fact, is a professional; an absolute master of doing precisely what he is able to do... Anna Massey plays Annie Sullivan. She does not do the real character justice; but she does William Gibson's; tough, cocky, whippet-thin with determination... As the animal growing into a human being, Janina Pave reproduces with great and touching effect what she has been taught... The Miracle Worker will not be remembered for a week after the last performance. But the last performance will not be for a very long time indeed." The Daily Express

"This is dramatic reporting at its very best. It describes how a child born blind, mute and deaf is brought by what seems a miracle of patience in the teacher to the point at which education may begin... William Gibson's reporting feat has been made possible only by his inspired selection of the facts. In a swift succession of small scenes scattered about the stage he hardly ever puts a foot wrong. He has to show the child as little better than a wild animal and to make the point that her worst enemies are her parents who indulge their natural pity at her expense... An adolescent Irish girl - Annie Sullivan, of Baltimore - who is made her governess, has herself been cured of blindness after nine serious operations. She is tough; she has common sense, perseverance, and a single-minded determination to achieve the impossible; and she is not troubled by any sense of personal dignity. Anna Massey shows in the playing of this onerous part a notable advance on anything she has done previously, and Janina Faye would hardly be bettered as the slobberingly helpless child who presents to the never-say-die teacher a mind that seems hermetically sealed off from communication... The play's subject may be un-attractive, but the play itself has a continuing tension that no good playgoer will care to miss." The Times

The Miracle Worker in London at the Royalty Theatre (now Peacock Theatre) opened on 9 March 1961 and closed on 7 May 1961, transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre opened on 9 May 1961 and closed on 28 October 1961

London Revival (The Other Place) 1988

Previewed 9 March 1988, Opened 16 March 1988, Closed 30 April 1988 at the Westminster Theatre (now rebuilt as The Other Place)

The cast features Hildegard Neil as 'Annie Sullivan', Daryl Back as 'Helen Keller', Ian Lavender as 'Captain Keller', Sally Osborn as 'Kate Keller' and Simon Tait as 'James Keller'. Directed by Adrian Reynold.

"The Miracle Worker must be the only Broadway hit of its time (the 1950s) that disregards the rule that love solves everything. It is the family's love for Helen, whom they treat as a maimed pet to be endlessly indulged, that denies her the chance of learning anything. It still creates a moral shock to see Annie taking charge of this pitiably disabled little girl and treating her as a spoiled brat... The heart of the piece, admittedly, lies in the sometimes wordless and violently physical teaching scenes, in which Helen gradually absorbs the deaf alphabet as a game, before finally breaking out of her linguistic prison. As Daryl Black and Hildegrad Neil play it, and is a heart-stopping moment. It also comes as the well-earned climax of a magnificent partnership that combines the ruthlessness of a prize fight with the fascination of a treasure hunt. With robust supporting performances from Ian Lavender and Sally Osborn, Adrian Reynold's production confirms again the act of teaching as one of the great dramatic subjects." The Times

The Miracle Worker in London at the Westminster Theatre previewed from 9 March 1988, opened on 16 March 1988 and closed on 30 April 1988

1st London West End Revival 1994

Previewed 13 July 1994, Opened 19 July 1994, Closed 27 August 1994 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)
Transferred 31 August 1994, Closed 8 October 1994 at the Wyndham's Theatre

The cast features Jenny Seagrove as 'Annie Sullivan', Catherine Holman as 'Helen Keller', William Gaunt as 'Captain Keller', Judi Bowker as 'Kate Keller' and Matthew Sharp as 'James Keller' with Yonic Blackwood, Annette Crooks, Shelaagh Ferrel, Michael Thornton and Rena Valeh. Directed by Richard Olivier with designs by Sean Cavanagh and lighting by Mark Prithard.

PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately, prior to opening there was a major flood in the Stalls area of the Comedy Theatre due to a burst water main pipe. This lead to the cancellation of four out of the six planned preview performances, although the production opened as planned on Tuesday 19 July 1988.

"Such is the enduring power of the piece that Jenny Seagrove's portrayal wins through, despite a wobbly Bostonian Oirish accent. She brings a nice sense of ironic humour to the epic battle of wills between teacher and pupil. William Gibson's play is one of those old warhorses that never fails to move audiences with the true, unsentimental story of how one outcast civilised another. And it presents the opportunity for a tour-de-force from newcomer Catherine Holman as Helen. Her remarkable West End debut combines screaming rage with hollow-eyed pathos. I wouldn't advise you to add to the theatre's damp problems, but you may find yourself quietly weeping into the buckets after all." The Daily Express

"The nouns that really matter here are teacher (Jenny Seagrove) and Helen (Catherine Holman). A great battle of wills is played out between them, and though the mind may tell as teacher will win, the heart gets tugged into believing that victory really would be a miracle. Holman has to play two hours of speechless frustration and anger. She does it wonderfully. She and Seagrove, all awkward charm and determination, might break your heart with all the charm and pity of their lessons. There were probably a lot of tears blinked away before the auditorium lights came up... We must ask ourselves if William Gibson's play deserves a West End outing. I'm afraid it doesn't. Teacher is a saint but we have wised up to sanctity... Richard Oliver, who directs, should make us ask what the point is of all our tears." The Guardian

The Miracle Worker in London at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre) previewed from 13 July 1994, opened on 19 July 1994 and closed on 27 August 1994, transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre from 31 August 1994 and closed on 8 October 1994