Drama: Docker Starkie, a famous boxer, is making
his comeback tonight against everybody's advice -- including
his wife's. Will he be successful? Despite their own problems,
this is the main subject of discussion for the five fighters
who are waiting for their turn to enter the square ring.
The Square Ring
IS BOXING a manly art in which courage is matched with courage,
or is it merely savagery, demoralising for both contestants and
- vivid portrait -
This is the question which the Australian
dramatist, Ralph W. Peterson, author of "The Square Ring"
asks, and answers, through the case-histories of six boxers.
The action of the play takes place while
the boxers are cooped up in a dressing room, each awaiting his
turn to go into the ring. Mercilessly, Peterson reveals the strength
and weakness of each man and the effect the fight game has on
his body and mind. By the end, the audience can have no doubt
what Peterson thinks of boxing. Bill Hitchcock, who directs the
play, sums up the author's verdict: "Ruthless, cruel, crooked.
Why do they do it?"
Hitchcock says: "If a man has the strength
of character to retire at the peak of his career and save his
money, as Freddie Mills did, the profession is a good one. But
-- how many boxers are there like him?"
"The Square Ring" is mainly concerned
with the boxer past his prime. The central character -- to whom
five boxers are subsidiary -- is Docker Starkie (George Baker).
He was a champion at 27 who retired at the peak of his career.
But, born a fighter, he missed the crowds, changes, excitements.
Starkie decides to make a comeback. The action
takes place on the night he is to appear in the ring after an
absence of 10 years. He is now 37. To the young boxers, Docker
Starkie is a legend, but when they hear that he is to join them,
they treat him as a joke. "How are we going to get him into
the ring without a wheelchair?" asks one of the attendants.
creates a vivid portrait of the young novice Eddie (Alan Bates),"
said Hitchcock. Bates, at 24, is a dynamic up and coming actor
with a TV personality remarkable for its impact. In three ITV
plays he has increased his fan mail with every role.
"Then there is the irrepressible Cockney
welterweight Happy Coombes (Harry Landis), the crooked boxer,
Rick Martell (Sean Connery), the middleweight, Rowdie Rawlings
(Percy Herbert), a calculating fighter but no intellectual, and
finally, another 'old-timer,' the punch-drunk Sailor Johnston
This is Hitchcock's first ITV drama, although
he has been in television since he earned £5 a week as
a call boy in 1949. He has worked in most departments of television
including acting. (He has no connection with that "other"
Hitchcock -- "except that I went to the Royal Academy of
Dramatic Art with his daughter Pat.")
Thomas Heathcote, as Sailor, again plays
one of those "difficult" parts for which he is usually
chosen. A clever actor, he has the knack and talent to portray
convincingly good and bad characteristics in one person.
In "The Square Ring," he portrays
a character who is, as he says, "nothing more than a child,
but a dangerous child who, when aroused, can become a killer.
Sailor's brain and vision have been damaged through continual
knocks, and he should not be in the game. But, as in real life,
these pathetic boxers are to be found in every gym.
"If I had a son I would encourage him
to box at school -- it builds character -- but after that, no.
I would not let any young man join commercial boxing as we know
The all-male cast stars 27 year old George
Baker as Starkie. Baker has appeared in many ITV dramas. He was
15 when he first started in theatre, as an assistant stage manager
for the Richmond repertory.
The last word on boxing goes like this: "as
a spectacle -- enjoyable. As a means of making a living -- lamentable.