THE GAY DOG
? great actor Wilfred Pickles is
t actor would be an exaggeration. To elude the truth that he is an exceedingly shrewd and capable player, as English as hot-pot, ale, the racing news and some dozens of millions of his fellow-citizens would be, reflecting upon the judgments of his work by my colleagues, fashionable.
Avuncular pens have patronised Mr. Pickles's work in Mr. Joseph Colton's endearing little essay in regional comedy, gently patting his head in the way of sporting old maids who have seen their nephew slide down the banisters in the parish hall. The typewriter of the most ferociously, strenuously terrible of the metropolis's current enfants has, in the modishly glib way, prophesied success for the comedy in the hinterland of London known to his type as "the provinces" and to historians as England,
Als. Wilfred. had you thought of playing a French engine-driver whimpering with angst, tortured by memories of successive love affairs. and not an English miner absorbed in greyhound racing and sustained by 3 successful marriage. you would be, as they say, hailed. Frustrated metaphysicians would grasp your symbalk significance to their unpalpitating bosoms. Your picture would be in the very little reviews. Or had you cosseted that dog, in the manner of Mr. Barrett with his female offspring, beaten your wife because sour mother was cruel, bitten your daughter for Freudian reasons, you would be psychoanalysed for the Eurootan market and profiled by the tamed "highbrows" for the tamed lowbrow:. Just like an American film star or an absconding physicist!
Wilfred, you have failed to conquer the conquered. And. if a metropolitan reviewer may ascend. momentarily, to your level—good luck to you. I have just one doubt about your performance. Do you. or do you not, wear a wire in your cloth bonnet?
THE GAY DOG, in its timorously sincere way, contains much of the persisting detail which makes the texture of existence for millions of English people and the gritty zest for life that inspires them.
The author is fortunate in his cast. Mr. Pickles conveys the stubborn, jaunty resentment of the miner with a readiness to grin when his own absurdity manifests itself too strongly. A tough, sandy little man with wellscrubbed complexion of a platoon sergeant, and something of the air of cheerful disenchanted courage that goes with the rank, he captures in his gait the crouch of the craftsman who daily applies his body and wits to the separating of coal from the compelling grip of rock. He wears the wonderfully circular cap of the miner and the neat "shifting" suit of blue; across the small, tight paunch is draped a watch chain tinkling with the medals that proclaim success in society, proficiency at swimming, boxing. cycling in youth, and as dogor pigeon-fancier in maturity.
The attitude to women is compelling and kindly with a democratic aloofness to their tantrums, and a sudden, dazzling in its delightfulness, recognition that they are the stronger, wiser and kinder sex in the home, the buttress of family and father.
Mr. Pickles knows his own folk, which is more than can be said for those who patronise him in priut; or is it that he has folk while the are expatriates from England to an unidentifiable place that lingers in shadows, an excrescence created by usurers and sustained by the breed while it gasps out life. These are, however, weighty matters.
THE miner has a dog: between the two the lives of his daughter and wife are complicated. Neighbours, on the estate, seek "information" of the brute, which is entered, in the name Raving Beauty, for a local canine Derby. Father plays Machiavelli with the backers: his didoes, and the daughter's romance with the vicar's Xon keep the play going until the middle of the second act. Then the clergyman divulges, in a mildly bemused way, that he too has an entrant for the race, a son of Mick the Miller. "Is that good?" he asks. Father remains "mum."
Mr. Douglas Ives, in an enchanting wall-eyed study of a righteous brotther-in-law, Miss Megs Jenkins, that delicately sturdy portrayer of working-class and peasant mothers, Miss Gillian Lutyens, Miss Nuna Davey. Miss Joan Hickson and Mr. Anthony Oliver provide a salty lively context for the star performance.
THE GAY DOG will run happily in the West End so long as there are theatre-goers in search of clean and lovable entertainment f o r families.
Those reviewers who found this comedy devoid of "significance" are advised to go back and meditate upon the virtues and humours it reflects. In the long run these may prove more significant to England thanmodish nausea brewed to impact upon overwrought ninnies who confuse moods and ideas with philosophy. Let the gentlemen and babes of London criticise Pickles Anglais on their palates. The taste has been acquired by some millions of English people. Those who are the audience. But then, being secretive as well as secret, that audience, maybe, never lost taste.