The Facing Chair

1963 | United Kingdom

Madame Romanoff is a fortune teller. Her "pitch" is in the amusement arcade of a small seaside town. People go to her "for a laugh" or because of that tradition...the fortnight by the seaside. Some go because they genuinely need advice and have run out of people they can ask. They sit in that facing chair to pour out their troubles and hope their half-guinea will buy them a solution. When Madame Romanoff asks: "But where do I pay my half-guinea?" she sums up The Facing Chair. For here is a woman used to being a sympathetic listener who suddenly finds she needs sympathy herself. Edmund Ward, the author, summed it up: "This is not so much a play about fortune telling, but about the nature of hope...the fact that everyone needs reassurance at some time. This is a portrait of a fortune teller who needs help and reassurance." 

The part of Madame Romanoff is played by Ruth Dunning (who first came to prominence in the role of Gladys Grove in BBC Television's The Grove Family). In 1963, she told TV Times that although she'd had her fortune told a couple of times and found it fascinating, she wasn't really sure about fortune telling. "I do not regard the woman I play as phoney." She said. "She is a wonderful judge of character and weighs up people very quickly. A lot of it, of course, is intuition and a little applied psychology." 

Ward, writing his third play for television, had already had his fortune told when doing research for it. "The lady told me I had something to do with actors and was, perhaps, a writer." For Madam Romanoff the money's good, the living's comfortable. But when she smells death - it frightens her. The Facing Chair was presented as ITV's Play of the Week on Monday 1st October 1963. It was broadcast at 9.15pm. Also starring were Alexis Kanner, Campbell Singer, Jo Rowbottom and Sean Lynch. The play was directed by Michael Currer-Briggs and was an Associated-Rediffusion Network Production. 

Published on April 7th, 2019. Based on original TV Times article (1963).

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