box 22/2
16.3. Die letzten
There is, of course, something out of thc way about the Vedrenne¬
Barker matinee season now running so successfully at the Court
Theatre. It is not as other seasons are. The management obviously,
aims at the production of zuperior drama, something a little more
interesting and stimulating than the jest or earnest of conventional
stage-plays. And so we have had“ John Bull’s Other Island,
and very grateful and comforting it has proved. But there was
something a littie strange abeut that brilliant play. Of course it
was unconventional and new as well as wholly delightful. But on
the top of its subtle perfection was laid a thick coat of broad and
easily understood humour, and a large portion of a public which
finds itself bewildered by subtlety, irritated by unconventionality,
and flummoxed by truth, fought (experto crede) for standing-room
in the pit. Perhaps—we are only guessing—Messrs. Vedrenne
and Barker said to themselves: “ This is most gratifying, but, after
all, we have gone in for novelty and unconventionality, and quite
Philistine sort of people insist on coming to this play. What
shall we try next?
No doubt this fanciful reasoning is baseless and unwarranted.
But some such consultation wouid explain the production at the Court
Theatre of yesterday’s triple bill. For the three plays produced
were new and strange enough. Each in its own fashion was a
“ grotesque''—not using the word in an offensive sense. Mr.
W. B. Veats’s“ The Pot of Broth?' a grotesque of nonsensicality,
Herr Arthur Schnitzler’s “ In the Hospital“’ a grotesque of brutality,
and Mr. Bernard Shaw'’s How He Lied to Her Husband'' a
grotesque of sheer, irresponsible, boisterous fun. Mr. Yeats’s play
has already been seen in London. It is a little countryside legend
(Trish, of couxse) of a beggar who sets his wits to fill his stomach,
and wheedles unbeknownst a dinner out of a foolish woman by a
strange tale of a magic stone which makes broth and stirabout and
poteen out of nothing at all, done into the outward semblance of
a one-act play. It is thin and not very diverting. Its sole
recommendation lies in its being, we suppose, an example of the
work of the Pan-Celtic School. Vesterday it was not played con¬
spicuously well, and no more necd be said of it.
Herr Schnitzler’s play, translated by Mr. Christopher Horne, is
a thoroughly Teutonic essay in realistic brutalitv. We sec how
horrible the ward of a German hospital is. Two dying men are always
on the stage. One—a consumptive—not Content with coughing and
gulping and looking deathly, goes one better bv imitating—he is an
actor—the death-throes of other patients. The other dies con¬
tinually—we should guess from angina pectoris. There is a thread
of plot to give an excuse for the horrors in the story of a revenge
planned by the angina patient as a last consolation of the religion
of hate and frustrated hy some nobler instinct at the last moment.
But the story is sufliciently vague and the dying is the thing. The
play is forcible enough in a brutal way. It could be guaranteed to
send persons suffering from the fashionable nervous troubles home
to fits or strokes. It would certainly terrify children, it might
weaken ill-balanced minds, and it ought to disgust sane and healthy
playgoers. As an experiment it may be very well. But it might
have been kept for the private enthusiasms of the Stage Socie'y.
It is to be hoped and expected that it will never find its way into
an ordinary bill. It was admirably played. Mr. J. D. Beveridge
as the angina patient and Mr. George Trollope (vastly different from
the admirable Hodson of“ John Bull’s Other Island'') as the con¬
sumptive gave powerful and gruesome performances.
Their art
gave the play an extra shudder, and dislike of the play did not
hinder admiration of their acting.
Finally, to take the nasty taste away,“ How He Lied to Her
Husband?' laid the house back in its seats shaking with laughter.
Here was Mr. Bernard Shaw tilting at evernbody and every¬
thing, making paradoxical fun of the conventional two men and
one woman play, taking pot-shots at himself, at“ Candida,' at
decadent poets, prosperous City men, South Kensington's smart set,
cutting a hundred capers with boisterous enjoyment and filling a
short forty minutes with pungent wit, rollicking humour, and knock¬
about fun. This was worth all the rest, and no wonder the play
“ caught on in America. It was most justly interpreted by Miss
Gertrude Kingston (charming, gay, and quite in the picture), Mr.
Granville Barker (as a rollicking parody of Eugene in“ Candida),
and Mr. A. G. Poulton (as a typical City man with fantastic notions
of the advantages of marriage).
Dne would certainly like to go
to andther of these matinees-and to come in for the last of the three