Page 3, 1st September 1950

1st September 1950
Page 3
Page 3, 1st September 1950 — LIVE IVORY AND DEAD FUSTIAN

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LIKE haggis the heap of invitations promised a fine mess of mixed feeding. Miss Lena Home's songs at the PALLADIUM seemed a suitable stimulant to the main dish Rostnersholm, at the ST. MARTIN'S: who could ask for better dessert than a newly translated French comedy, The Little Hat (LYRIC), with Mr. Robert

Morley ? As biscuits and cheese Miss Hermione Baddeley in ersatz " Restoration." love or Money (AmnkssApons) should be choice. Our appetites were nice.

As often happens the appetiser turned out the only nourishing item in the menu. Miss Home for once justified the rococo periods of vaudeville publicity and was fabulous. Exhilaratingly alive, authoritative, master of her material, she is the audience's gracious servant and, refreshing change at the PALLADIUM, nobody's slave. In song she proclaims the lady is a tramp' hut there is no doubt she is a lady; and, in her way, a supreme artist. But contrast plays and players on the higher reaches of the week's drama, seemed dead. merely. like the person in Miss Gracie Fields' ditty. avoiding the horizontal. They offer varieties of fustian.

PLASTIC IVORY No diva ever commanded an audience with greater assumption of divine right; like Sir Laurence Olivier, Miss Horne does not walk on stage; she has mastered the mystical craft of appearing. The setting has been easily arranged. Heaped. under the baton of her husband who, whimsically, wears a beard and an ordinary dinner jacket, black, neither pink, scarlet, magenta, nor Etonian, nor looking as if filched from a Bond Street show window, the orchestra is silhouetted in the background. Accompanying songsters seem to hover in mid-air. The singer appears.

She is an actress, using song as medium and as instruments the voice, face and hands. Her beauty is curious. Indeed the word evokes the essential quality, the finish of a Chinese chessman, the mask perfectly carved, apparently in ivory, but, paradoxically, natural, quaintly radiant; there is blood in the ivory. This is not one of Hollywood's glamour girls but an artist, the features oddly refined, the lips expressive in the Negro way, the gestures occidental. Spanish yet Asiatic she might be the product of a new race and, looking about, one could wish her a prototype. Those who preach against popular modern

music should hear her sing. The songs become folk music irooically expressing our times; the spirit is primitive, savage, but the mind making the performance, the work of art, is civilised, and it disciplines into flawless pattern and detail.

WHITE FOLKS One detects a note of racial malice-and loves her for it-gently softening the brash satire of The

Lady is a Tramp. A cultivated woman is commenting on " white folks." Gliding from note to note in Frankie and Johnny she suddenly pierces the bombast, snaring us into a bogus mood. She sweetly deflates. She educates. Beale Street Blues

gives us a gossiping " coloured gal" and 'Deed Ah Do the same girl making light, tender, laughing love. The range is exploited. The ivory crumples in the rain as she sings Stormy Weather: the words come over a storm. Her power of facial mime is extraordinary and economical. She always has reserves. Exquisitely mocking. whispering Bewitched she makes its tinklings wholly true.

Few actors can give such crisp poignance to lbsen's tortured idealists as Mr. Robert Harris ; but Rostnersholm requires uniform excellence in the playing. Today the aspirations of Pastor Rosmer recall too easily the rhetoric of Ramsay Macdonald. Mr. Edward Chapman, Mr. John Kidd and Mr. George Coulouris are good in support But, the most important role, the Rebecca West is miscast.

All one can commend in The Little Hut is Mr. Oliver Messell's decor. The play is lewd, like the wit of the characters, in a " prep school way." Mr. Morley, impersonating, apparently, the late Sydney Howard, has amusing moments.

For Love or Money, a " Restoration " pastiche, emerges at the Ambassadors as unrestored boredom. Miss Baddeley struggles manfully, and delightfully, against the plodding material, and Mr. Henry Kendall abets. But it all adds up to one of the most dreary evenings I have spent in a London theatre.

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