Chastity, My Brother, at the Embassy, has been described in the press as "em
barrassing." So far, so good, for the .behaviour of the early Christians was embarrassing to the Roinans and, I fear, no less embarrassing to us when it is faithfully recounted. We behave so like the Romans and our standards resemble so much more closely their standards than those of the saintly pioneers to whom we owe our faith.
But, alas! nothing in fact would be less embarrassing than this play for the simple reason that there is about as much real Christianity in the characters as in my old boot—to use a favourite phrase of the late Baron von Htigel.
The story, based on a verse or two in the Acts and the second epistle to Timothy, is simple. The beautiful daughter of a rich citizen of Iconium is deeply affected by the preaching of Paul. Her relations do all they can to prevent her conversion to this strange cult, employing underhand means to have Paul arrested. Thekla, the daughter, nevertheless bribes her way to the prison and appears with Paul before the Proconsul who has Paul scourged for enticing Thekla from the young man to whom she is betrothed. Paul and Thekla flee to Antiocb where Thekla is thrown to the beasts, escaping in a way that looks miraculous. She rejoins Paul, but her fellow-Christians, like her relations and the Proconsul, believe that she is only physically in love with Paul. This turns out to be the case.
Frankly, the author has entirely failed —and the actors make it so obvious—to introduce into the play one single spark of the supernatural. The triumph of the supernatural over the natural or even the
triumph of the natural over the supernatural would have been intelligible, but there is nothing to be made of a Christian maiden falling in love with a self-satisfied, cocksure Paul who throws her over by a trick because her intentions do not suit his plans. "You will have your reward," he tells her, and her answer : "It will have to be a very substantial reward," epitomises the values that run through the piece. The play would collapse entirely were it not for the hot-air about "virginity" with which it is filled. No wonder the worthy Greeks and Romans were puzzled by Paul's teaching about virginity as represented here. So are we—and for once we can enjoy a play about pagan and early Christians in which our whole sympathy may go out without any twang of conscience to the pagans.
Mr. Clarke-Smith's almost too-evident sureness of touch suits the Pilate of " Caesar's Friend " a hundred times better than Paul. Miss Margaretta Scott is so much more attractive and so much • less suggestive dressed as a boy than as a demure Christian maiden. Mr. Henry Hewitt and Miss Agnes Lauchlan, as the Proconsul and the superstitious pagan mother, get the best lines and welcome them. Mr. Max Adrian as Onesiphorus, the snobbish patron of Christians, reminds us of a Christian we know, but with this difference, that our friend for all his show has a genuinely Christian heart and Onesiphorus had none. Life is not as simple as the author thinks.
Light Under A Bushel
That Parnell can never reach a public stage is one of the tragedies of the theatre. Its success is as assured as that of The Barretts of Wimpole Street and its merit is decidedly greater. Although the Gate Theatre is packed to its very doors every night, only a hundred and twenty-five persons can attend each performance, and the play is doomed to an early death in this country practically unwept and unsung.
Historical plays are usually unsatisfactory, mainly because, for the sake of dramatic effect, they eulogise or defame the public hero out of all proportion to his deserts. Charles Parnell has been neither eulogised nor defamed by Miss Elsie Schauffler—he has been humanised.
Humanising is the most difficult task to undertake regarding Parnell. Even after all these years (forty odd since his death at Brighton) the man is still either venerated as the salvation of his nation or despised for his part in a notorious divorce case;
No one seemed capable of looking at Parnell dispassionately—he must either be the Messiah of the Irish people or an utter outcast of the lowest nature.
Miss Schauffler shows him as neither of these things. She shows him as a born leader, as a man who knew his own purpose and who was as certain of what he wanted in the Cabinet as he was of what he wanted in love. All means he sacrificed to attain these ends.
Mr. Wyndham Goldie strode the narrow stage of the Gate Theatre like the colossus that was Charles Parnell. His every gesture was one of power and his every glance one of profound heartsearching. His was a grand figure, tremendously majestic, even in death.
As Katie O'Shea, Miss Margaret Rawlings blended just those qualities of strong reserve of character with charm, deeper than manner, that such a man as Parnell would have looked for in a woman.
As Prime Minister William Ewart, Mr. Arthur Young, unrecognisable in his false nose, reeked of the sententiousness of the Gladstone style, and Miss Marda Vanne was a living example of how to grow old with distinction. But the cast of Parnell does not bear a selection for honours, all the members deserve equal fame for theirs is a rare unity of play and performers in one superb production.
kine the Great
The Balle's de Monte Carlo, who have recently opened a season at the Alhambra, may not be, as expected by some people, the best ballet company to visit London in recent years, but they are certainly one of the best. Although their men dancers would seem to be their strong point, in fact it is from a lack of men able to take such character parts as "Petrouchka," "Harlequin," or the chief in "Prince Igor" that the Monte Carlo Ballets chiefly suffer.
Their main interest in Michel Fokine himself, who has returned with them to London after long years of absence, to direct some of his ablest, most-danced ballets, such as "Sylphides" and "Carsaval," and to produce two new ' ballets. Interesting, too, are the young Kirsova and Ruanova, and especially Nemchinova, for long Diaghileff's ballerina and still unsurpassed in classical parts.
It is claimed that the choreography for this company's "Sylphides" and other early Fokine ballets is as originally devised. Whether this unprovable claim is justified or not, these old ballets, as danced by this company, certainly contain illuminat ing touches lacking in other productions of the same ballets.
The one new ballet so far, "L'Epreuve d'Amour," a "chinoiserie" with setting by Derain and music by Mozart, does not enhance Fokine's reputation. It is charming, in dance and setting, its dancing, rightly, tells the story, but it is all rather disappointingly slight—even trivial.
Among the men dancers only Eglevsky stirs interest. His slow turns and elevation are better than ever, but his effeminacy in "Sylphides" is quite disastrous. Of the women, Kirsova, as the butterfly in "L'Epreuve," is brilliant technically and altogether deIihtfu1, Ruanova in an otherwise mediocre "Spectre de la Rose," has long easy lines and elevation, and Nemchinova dances "Lac des Cygnes" in that grand style of the "prima ballerina assoluta," so essential to such classical parts and so rapidly being forgotten.
In "Prince Igor" the company is perhaps at its most typical; in this ballet the men's lack of technique has nearly complete compensation in the vigour of the dancing.
" A Dream That Was Dreamed
When Mr. Humbert Wolfe wrote his verse fantasy Reverie of Policeman he chose dialogue form to clothe his thoughts —but not everything that is dialogue is necessarily drama--otherwise why not Plato at the Palladium?
Reverie of Policeman was never intended by its author for stage presentation. Though it lies happily curled between the covers of a book, it is restive and selfconscious under the proscenium arch. Its gorgeous language is poured out upon an audience who cannot receive all its meaning so quickly as the words are spoken, and so, like an incantation, they bewitch the listener with t le beauty of their sound.
Braving paradox, I would suggest that if the words of the poem had entirely been omitted, the poem would have been made comprehensible. Produced as ballet Reverie of Policeman might have survived the footlights glare. Translate the written page into the motion of the ballet and the thought would have been merely transferred unchanged from one artistic medium to another, but make audible speech out of silent poetry arid thought will be completely destroyed.
If not completely destroyed, the meaning of Mr. Humbert Wolfe's work has lost itself in the wandering echoes of lovely words as spoken by a superb team of Mr. Ion Swinley, Mr. Dennis Arundell and Miss Catherine Lacey.
Not that the Mercury Theatre company are to be condemned for bad taste in their effort to give concrete existence to this work of abstractions. Theirs is a tremendously interesting experiment, with difficult responsibilities which they have never shirked. But, through no fault of producers, actors or managers, their experiment can only remain an interesting failure—% dream that was dreamed."