Sunday Listening Is Not Lugubrious
THREE-AND-A-HALF HOURS' HARD IN A SINGLE DAY'S PROGRAMME
The Drama Department has done some good work since my last letter. There was "Cyrano de Bergerac," a gallant adventure; and there was "St. Louis Blues." Everyone knows that to attempt Rostand on the air is to attempt the impossible.
What remained, then, when "Cyrano " had been stripped of every appeal to the eye, of nearly all in fact that makes it such magnificent " theatre"? Something that for two hours held one listener at least spell-bound. if Romance, that manyplumaged bird, was not to be seen, there was no doubt as to the beating of its wings. Perhaps it was a quality of excitement in Mr. Humbert Wolfe's translation, and the music that certain of the voices made of it.
The play turned itself into a romantic symphony, and 1 found myself listening to it as I should listen to music.
This was No. 5 in the new " World Theatre" series; a series that must help to console the ,Drama Department for the dearth of good original plays.
Pure Stuff of Radio It is owing to this dearth, perhaps, that "St. Louis Blues" appears a little masterpiece. It was written by Mr. Irving Reis for the " Workshop" Hour of the Columbia Broadcasting System in America. It was the pure stuff of radio. A couple of bored officials, an announcer and an engineer, are seeing through a broadcast from a Harlem restaurant. They are wondering whether listeners are as bored as they are.
Actually the programme is being picked up, as it would be, by a countless audience all over the world. We get a cross-section of that audience: a saloon-full of passengers in a sinking ship; the pilot of an aeroplane lost in a storm; an Italian family in a New York slum; an eloping couple who turn on the wireless in their car; a gangster whose car is also fitted with wireless. At the end of the programme the announcer and the engineer dear off quite unaware of the part it has played in each of these little dramas.
The theme of the play was therefore that vast invisible audience whose presence is so intriguing to all igho slop to think about radio. Whether it evaporated under expression, as ideas sometimes do, and became a little trite, might be argued; but it was first-rate entertainment and a text-book example of a real radio play.
He Learnt His Lesson
And it looks as if we are to have another real radio play on March 3, this time of home manufacture. In Mr. George Dunning Grimble, an English writer living in Paris, the Drama Department believes it has secured a find. He approached them a month or two ago saying that he knew nothing of the technique of radio play writing but was anxious to learn. After a few talks on the subject he went away and within a short time had sent in two plays, one of which, "Scarecrows," will be broadcast to the Empire on February 28, and the other, " Beware of the Gods." is the play down for March 3. It sounds to me the stuff of radio.
Ulysses B. Tucker (named after Ulysses Grant, of Civil War fame, not Homer's) a hard-boiled American yacht owner, is smuggling an art treasure out of Italy, the statue of a god. He finds himself lured by the self-same syrens that lured Ulysses. 1 can guess how syrens (in the modern sense) had police boats, for the episode takes place in a thick fog, are going to make a delicious fantasy of the whole thing. Make a note of the date.
Make a note also of Sunday next, February 20, for what promises to be a good feature programme, " Madame Tussaud's." I hope you are, like myself, a feature programme fan. It deals principally with the early life and adventures of the lady, when she was Marie Gresholtz. And what adventures! She lived at Versailles—this was before the Revolution—and used to give lessons in modelling to the ladies of the Court. Then came the Revolution and her employment during the Reign of Terror was to model the heads of the victims of the guillotine, many of them her intimate friends. This gruesome task appears to have been forced upon her by the revolutionaries.
In 1795 she married •Frangois Tussaud and the pair fled to England for a little peace and quiet. She brought many of her moulds and effigies with her including the "Caverne des Grands Voleurs," the original Chamber of Horrors. Unfortunately, at Bristol, where she held one of her first exhibitions, the building was stormed by an angry mob. It was in 1833 that the exhibition found its permanent home in Baker Street.
I can recommend the new series "Georgian Melodies," on the lines of the popular Victorian Melodies." It made a successful first appearance on Sunday week, and I was sorry I could not hear the whole of it; but I had to abandon it for Miss Kathleen Long, who was playing a Mozart piano concerto. This is an event which no one should ever miss, because Miss Kathleen Long (who by the way is a Catholic) is beyond doubt the finest .Mozart player before the public.
Perhaps it was an exceptional Sunday, but I can't agree with listeners who find the Sunday programmes lugubrious. What? Mr. Middleton at 2. "Cyrano de Bergerac" at 6, Miss Kathleen I.ong (Continued at foot of next column) playing Mozart at 9.20. and the Theatre Orchestra with Miss Garda Hall and Mr. Roy Henderson from 9 to 10. What more does anybody want?