THEATRE: By W. J. IGOE
THE TEDDY BEAR (St. Martin's) THE respectable murderer is a fascinating chap. because we have something in common with him. When, for example, a scout7 master who collects foreign stamps and plays a dashing game of bowls, casually removes a series of cubmistresses, all the time in his spare time practising hymns on the harmonium, or harmonica, our eyebrows elevate. Here is a mystery. What is the solution?
It was, I suspect, the respectabilite of the killer that attracted Mr. Roger Livesey to play the lead in The Teddy Bear; there can be no other reason, because this is a bad play. Charlie Delaney who timmed, as they say upon my native heath, an Austrian lady over a cliff edge. is a decent, sentimental. broken-down comedian who lives on the south coast. Charlie is an arrant fool, which should have restrained Mr. Livesey from essaying the part. Mr. Livesey is an incorrigibly intelligent player.ln the richer stratum of dramatic folry, as Sir Toby or Falstaff, for example, he is one of the best comedians in England; but these are sly arid cunning rascals, fat men who sleep at night and upon diverse couches. One cannot imagine Sir John adopting the children of his victims for anything other titan a philanthropic de sire to train them as pickpockets. Sir Toby might use them to bear letters to his girl friends. Charlie, one knot.ss, means to raise them as sturdy cricketers on money filched from their unfortunate mother after giving her the long drop.
The situation. I admit. has possibilities; but the author makes nothing of them. We rely on Mr. Livesey to do what he can; and, as one would expect. he does it very well. But he cannot make a part from cunning pauses in thoroughly banal dialogue. Despite Mr. Livesey s art, I grew tired of Charlie.
X /(R. JAMES WARREN, who IVI wrote The Teddy Bear, seems to have had a good idea for a study in homicide and some notions of characters, but he lacks the sheer vulgar technique required to turn his concept imp a play.
The "comic" turned killer is the son of a female Cockney bar-fly who insists he was made for success, presumably upon the boards. Charlie returned from the wars n ilk a pension. idles his time on what he irrationally believes to be good works: these take the hideous form of not only encouraging amateur actors but actually producing them a tt pe of artistic Frankensteinism, to my admittedly prejudiced mind almost worse than death applied outside the normal courses. So that he Can pursue this wicked hobby he kills for money.
The author peoples his stage with labelled figures. the boozing mother. a faithful, self-effacing school teacher, a stage-struck shop-girl, a detective, a doctor and the children of the murdered woman. Each of whom he might have created as a character.
Miss Olga Lindon makes the mother painfully believable and very funny in a grisly way; Mr. Arnold Bell, as ever. is quietly master of his part, the detective. But the schoolmistress is so sketchily created that Miss Ursula Jeans can make nothing of her; nevertheless by being there Miss Jeans makes almost any play more tolerable. 1 am afraid I found the little girl who played the biggest part for the children tiresomely pert.
Contrivance upon contrivance. obvious and despairing, drag The Teddy Rear out for three acts; not all the work of the excellent cast makes it more than mildly tiresome.
, THE WANDERfNIG JEW (Xines, Hammersmith)
A T first this mildewed melodrama riseenled to be anti-Semitic; then it
seemed anti-Christian; then it showed its true colours, It is anti-theatre and not all Mr. Won's skill—admittedly not used here—can make it other than fustian.
Temple Thurston, the author, seems to have been one of those sententious bores who flourished towards the end of the 19th century and on into the 20th, who regarded the Churches as hives of persecution. In his own terms. be seems to have approved of Our Lord, but his terms, on examination, are blasphemous.
His Jew spits upon God as He carries the Cross to Calvary and is condemned to walk the earth until he accepts grace. We see him making blood-shot love in a marquee at the time of the Crusades, making what is known as a pretty penny in Italy some centuries later and fleeing persecution after his wife has, most uncanonically, left him and entered a convent; in the end he is burned at the stake by the Inquisition. For once in my life I felt like crying: ''Up the Inquisition."
Mr. Wolfit has Moments of great dignity; even in this twaddle he can command our hearts, but the mind is a restless little beast; it protests. We look forward to the actor's next production, The Taming of the Shrew, and wonder why he chose The Wandering Jew with the whole range of Restoration comedy to chose from if he wished to make a lull in his season of Shakespeare,