My dear friend, as far as that grotesque realism is concerned, which con¬
siders it its duty to get along without stage management or prompter,
that realism, in which a fifth act frequently fails to be reached, because a
tile has fallen upon the hero’s head in the second act—I am not interested.
As for myself, I let the curtain go up when it begins to be amusing, and
1 let it go down at the moment which I consider fit.
Ir is in these words, touched with a delicate flippancy which
is thoroughly characteristic, that Arthur Schnitzler endeavours to
summarise the technique which, though it has lifted him to the
summit of the Austrian drama, is as yet comparatively unknown
to the English public, if one except the performance of two of
his one-act pieces by the New Stage Club, and the recent pro¬
duction of the play Liebelei at the Afternoon Theatre.
It is in fact because Schnitzler’s plays combining, and on the
whole combining efficiently, the psychological interest of pure
problem'’ with the emotional interest of pure“ drama'’ afford
specimens of a type novel to at any rate the majority of our
theatre-goers, that they provoke something more than a cursory
examination not only of themselves, but of the standpoint and
method of the man who wrote them. Above all is this the case
in a country like England, where the problem play is hampered
by so many handicaps. The exaggerated officialdom of our
English propriety, beneficial though it may be from the moral
aspect, produces artistically unfortunate results. Many first-class
problem plays are exiled from the stage, but that is not where
the mischief ends: even when they are produced, it is only to be
looked upon with suspicion as eccentric symptoms of dangerous,
not to say anarchistic tendencies. When, however, official and
Prespectable?’ dramatists (f.c., dramatists of the stamp of Mr.
Pinero or of Mr. Sutro) produce so-called problem plays before
official and “respectable'’ audiences (f.e., audiences of a calihre
other than that of those who patronise the Court and Stage Society
performances), it will usually be found (if, indeed, the play is not
an innocuous family drama, or simply a comedy of intrigue, for
in many cases the word“ problem?’ has degenerated into a mere
euphemism for some slight forgetfulness of the seventh Command¬
ment) that the dramatist has sacrificed the duty of working out
his problems logically and artisticaily to the still more paramount
duty of appeasing the moral consciousness of his audience.