Shoulders Earth and By ANDREW BOYLE
AT least one enclosed part of
Hammersmith seemed happy that wet night. The Lyric Theatre was packed to capacity. The casual connoisseur was there, and so was the regular devotee. But overflowing the seats from stalls to balcony, tilling the passageways, and craning their necks while bruising each others' toes were the serried ranks of the merely curious. By dint of nimble footwork, I managed to escape their trampling enthusiasm. And by pressing onwards at the final curtain with the singleminded purpose of a goodmannered bull in a china shop. I managed to reach the side of Jean Paul Sartre-father of the prevailing wind of " Existentialism " and author of the two plays that had caused so much commotion.
The French playwright had that rosily elated look, and appeared quite willing to talk.
" How do you think the plays went down in English " " I think they went very well indeed. I'm delighted at the reception," he said. I wanted to chip in and say that I was a little surprised at the reception, but M. Sartre had swiftly rounded on my companion, representative of a Paris weekly, for his paper's past undervaluation of the worth of M. Sartre ! He pointed out with no small heat that he could " take " reasonable criticism and-at a pinch-unfair criticism. " But as for idiotic criticism . . the philosopher could not match words, to his deep disgust.
I took up the questioning. "Can you tell me whether these plays are meant to be an application of your particular theories ? " M. Sartre switched on an enigmatic stare as if to say: "Work that one out for yourself." I tried another tack: " Would you say, then, that what we have seen to-night is a good introduction to your ideas for an undiscerning English audience ? Jean Paul shrugged his shoulders with a faint smile. Perhaps," he said. " Depending on what the average person makes of those ideas."
And what did the average person make of them ?
Very little, in my honest -opinion. Two slick, emotionally overcharged pieces depicting two separate problems. and the terribly amoral and fatalistic fashion in which Sartre solves them: was this existentialism? What had it to offer bar the ultra
realism of its mood Useless to call in the apologists when Sartre himself seemed at a loss. And I wondered as I left whether the box-office would not have explained matters more satisfactorily and less elusively.