Page 10, 7th May 1937

7th May 1937
Page 10
Page 10, 7th May 1937 — Autobiography Of A Play

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Locations: Vaudeville, Paris


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Autobiography Of A Play

Experiment With French Satire

In Theatre Street (Mercury) has obvious French antecedents. It has all the traditional French power of tickling very serious subjects with very light feathers so that the audience can take as much as they like of solemnity and leave the rest.

Ashley Dukes has made the discovery of M. Lenormand's Crepuscule au Thedtre and the only regret I have for an admirable translation is that the original title was not translated too. Twilight of Theatre is an exact description of the play's motif—the dim descent of imagination on the stage into the bottomless pit of spectacularism on the screen.

The story, used as a vehicle for this message—when I say message, mistake me not, there is no preaching except in a short misguided epilogue best forgotten—is of a poetic play which loses its life at the hands of an assassin leading lady, all vanity and no imagination. It regains it at the whim of a maurauding film company who finance its run for their own foul ends, but because they cannot have their own way with the film making, they break up the stage production, also.

Appropriate enough for the Mercury theatre whose reputation is made upon the presentation of poetic plays and it's good to get an apologia delivered with such wit, such satire without bitterness, such apparent nonchalance hiding such intense feeling.

It is good also to be offered a satiric play of real people instead of the usual marionette players and Francis James (playing the author), Vivienne Bennett (actress), Ian Dawson (producer), Wilfrid Walter (actor), and Hermione Gingold (leading lady) lost no opportunities of vivifying their lines.

Theatre Street should bring to the Mercury a new reputation, and s new public. I. C.

The Grand Duchess

It is strange that perhaps the most successful opera bouffe ever written, La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein, has only twice been produced in this country, first in the year 1867 at Covent Garden, shortly after its initial production in Paris at the Odeon, and next in 1897. Yet Offenbach's music and Halevy and Meilhac's libretto have in them the mysterious elements that make both for popularity at first sight and permanence even more clearly than the work of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Of course, their particular genius is not English. • The sudden turns in music and script from absurdity to seriousness, the audacious twistings round the eternal feminine, the extravagance for extravagance's sake in the comic element—such are notes one recognises in almost every French comedy or cartoon; and the Englishman can never quite make them out. He likes the point to be much more obvious and to look much less childish.

In this welcome revival at Daly's the producer has done his best to cater for English taste with a new English libretto by G. P. Robinson, who seems to get his best laughs by bringing in modernisms, a very English hero in Mr. Bruce Carfax as the private promoted to general because the Grand Duchess happened to like his looks one day on parade, a very English simple country girl, Miss Nancy Neale, engaged to the lucky soldier, and, best of all, our wireless friend, Mr. Penny, as Prince Paul. Only Miss Enid Cruickshank as the Grand Duchess achieved the French manner in looks, dress, acting and singing. And she looked superb.

A gay evening watching a comic opera war and the intrigues, amatory and political, of the nobility and the general staff, watching, in fact, all the seeds that have since grown so lustily in musical plays, would have been gayer still if the whole business had been taken at a smarter pace and with slightly less dallying at the wayside over the antics of Mr. W. S. Percy as the ridiculous General Bourn. For some reason — perhaps it was the acoustics of Daly's or throats among the singers—voices were rather thin and bodyless.

But Offenbach's playful music carried the

day. A little more attunement of matter to the form he breathes and this revival

should be a great success. M. B.

Red, Bright and Blue

1 always think that non-stop revue has two great advantages over the ordinary once nightly variety. In the first place, the seats are usually much cheaper, and in the second one has not to be at the theatre at any special time and can therefore just go in when one likes, and miss nothing because one can remain until the particular item which was on when one entered comes round again. Then again, items are usually complete in themselves and bear no rela tion to any others that have preceded them Andre Chariot is a past-master of this kind of entertainment, and in his latest effort, Red, Bright and Blue, he has excelled himself.


Ronald Frankau, so well remembered as the witty confrere at the Prince of Wales' Theatre, has transferred his allegiance to the Vaudeville and more than justifies his reputation for subtle and intimate fun.

Each item of an unusually lengthy programme is bright and always entertaining. There are some extremely pretty girls who dance and pose delightfully—in fact, there is not a dull moment from start to finish. One marvels that so much vitality can he continuously maintained at so high a pitch without flagging from early afternoon to late at night.


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