Page 10, 2nd July 1937

2nd July 1937
Page 10
Page 10, 2nd July 1937 — The Play

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The Play

Victorian Incidents

Lord Chamberlain Press Agent

The substitution of " advertisement " for " adversity " in a tolerably familiar context is one of the more facetious of Shakespearean emendations. But it should be hailed by Mr. Housman, who indeed, can thank his late enemy, the Lord Chamberlain, for serving him so well as a press agent without fee. It is at least certain that the Lyric Theatre will be thronged for months to come by those anxious to see Victoria Regina, the " banned " play about Queen Victoria. And curiosity will have its reward, though not the reward it may have expected.

This is a pleasant play, and the emphasis is on " pleasant " rather than " play." Mr. Housman has strung together some typical incidents in the life of the Queen, from "The Six O'clock Call, 1837," to "Ham and Glorious, 1897," and has used them to good purpose. Such a method is inevitably arbitrary and can only be successful when the audience is able to co-operate with the author, supplying the background which he can only suggest. In the case of Victoria, the Greville diaries and the pages of Punch, not to speak of Lytton Strachey, are at hand to make that possible.

Mr. Housman's choice of incidents is happily not confined to important occasions of state. We have the Queen's accession, but we have, too, Prince Albert shaving and Victoria and Disraeli in the Garden Tent at Balmoral with the incredible John Brown in attendance.

Miss Pamela Stanley's performance as Victoria has already received the enthusiastic praise it deserves. The serene young girl at Kensington Palace and the old lady of the Diamond Jubilee—these are the obvious extremities of the portrait, and both are authentic. But in between are more exacting aspects: the possessive wife, the writer of underlined despatches, the custodian of the national conscience. In all of them Miss Stanley convinces.

She is supported by an excellent Prince Consort in Carl Esmond. Mabel TerryLewis as the Duchess of Sutherland and James Woodburn as John Brown arc especially notable in a host of minor characters. And Mr. Ernest Milton as Disraeli gives a study of finished elegance which he alone can give.

The settings are designed by Rex Whistler and are consistently beautiful.

J. A. E.


It is a great pity that Mr. Beverley Nichols in his new revue Floodlight (Saville) has not written lyrics and script up to the standard of his delightfully harmonious music. The music is far too good for the purpose it is put to, except in the final episode of the first act, a "Prelude for Battle," which depicts the Ball in Brussels on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. Here harmony blends with artistic setting as officers in their old-time scarlet and white uniforms glide gracefully with partners dressed in most picturesque frocks of the period.

For the rest, the revue is a rather shallow affair, not always in the best of taste. For instance, "A Waslhingfine Incident " might easily be eliminated, as also a sketch centreing round unsexed young men and women,

The charming artiste, Miss Frances Day, is a great deal in the floodlight throughout the revue and makes the most of the rather mediocre material provided, while Hermione Baddeley is in charge of the comic relief, There is no recognised funny man in the cast, but John Mills goes nearest to earn this title with his rather forced drolleries.

Perhaps the chief musical success of the revue is a number called, "Artificial Flowers" and sung with great charm by Frances Day. There is the usual beautiful and vivacious chorus of young women, but in this revue they so resemble one another, not only in dress but also in feature, that they might really almost belong to the same big family.


Tsar Lenin

Tsar Lenin (Stage Society, produced at the Westminster theatre) is a propaganda piece, whether it means to be or not Its author, M. Francois Porche, has a vitriolic hatred for the subject of his play and, although 'the worst extravagances of its expression are well curbed, hatred has eaten in too far to save the material from its destructive power.

As a chronicle of history, Tsar Lenin

is most instructive. Opening with the exile in Paris. in 1910, it proceeds to relate the story of the Russian revolution under Lenin's guidance until the leader's inglorious death from paralysis in 1924. As a man's development it is less successful, and although Basil Sydney walked the Westminster boards a living image of that glass-housed effigy in Moscow's Red Square, the likeness seems to be not character but skin (or make-up) deep.

In form, Tsar Lenin belongs to the Isherwood-Auden realistic-symbolistic tra dition. There are dramatic pitches, and poetic heights in this play which hold enormous appeal for the politically interested in every wing. But the trouble seemed to be not whether or not one shared the dramatist's angle, but whether much political moral and a little art together make good theatre.

I. C.

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