Willis Hall’s play The Long And The Short And The Tall, directed by Barry Norman’s father Leslie, was part of the post-Look Back in Anger flowering at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. Originally directed in 1959 by Lindsay Anderson with a cast led by Peter O’Toole, it garnered good reviews and transferred to the West End for a three-month run.
The situation of fighting men pinned down and interacting while resolutely not confronting their fate was already well-worked (not least in R.C.Sherriff’s Journey’s End of three decades earlier) and Hall’s working class types are no more able than Sherriff’s dreamy public school boys.
A seven-strong squad beds down in a dilapidated store-hut in the Malayan jungle. The Japanese invasion of 1942 proceeds around them but, hindered by a broken radio, they cannot guess whether or when to move on. The plot thickens when a lone Japanese soldier happens on the hut. His fate becomes the squad’s second imponderable.
UK / 1960
Director: Leslie Norman
Writer: Wolf Mankowitz, from Willis Hall’s play
Cast: Laurence Harvey, Richard Todd, David McCallum, Richard Harris, Ronald Fraser, John Meillon, John Rees, Kenji Takaki