Page 10, 8th April 1938

8th April 1938
Page 10
Page 10, 8th April 1938 — The Play

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Locations: London, Canterbury, New York


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The Play


Crazy-Show Escapism From Robert Sherwood

Idiot's Delight

The forthcoming world war will be the very height of man's most crass, most futile, most abysmal degeneracy; the blackout of his reason, or, as Mr. Sherwood has it, it will be Idiot's Delight. His play has arrived in London after a successful New York run to tell us that war is crazy and what the hell are we going to do about it—nothing?—so let's try and laugh it off.

Mr. Sherwood has set his theme of deadly seriousness in broad comedy, and that will upset the English, except those who have become infected with the American Crazy Cult that has lately invaded Leicester Square, for the English like taking serious things seriously or, more usually on the stage, leaving them severely alone in reverent aura of sentiment.

But Sherwood has come up hard against the grinning fact; he has ceased to argue about it. We'll all be blown to hell unless we start to see things straight, he says. He doesn't know how we'll do it but he can set the world is cockeyed. So he puts his sermon into a comedy, and, fashionably fantastic, he piles on the incongruous to drive home his meaning. Crazy-show escapism fits well with the nervous tension of impending world war and annihilation.

In an hotel on a mountain peak of the frontier of imaginary Versailles-made state are marooned a mixed bag of very odd types to illustrate the impact of war on humanity; Harry Van (Raymond Massey) and his six blonde showgirls touring the music halls of Europe; the dull English honeymoon couple; the scientist whose nearly-discovered cancer cure is scrapped so that he may go back to help Germany win by bacteriological warfare, the sleek and creeping villain-of-the-piece arms manufacturer and his glamorous lady friend; the bitter French Communist; and the dear old waiter who goes off to war, trusting and obedient. For each the playwright has made a special tragedy of this universal chaos.

Idiot's Delight is an incident play. It begins and ends under the proscenium arch. The players come and go and dance for your benefit to Mr. Sherwood's tune. First the dreary, monotonous music of the unappreciated dance band, then the scream of the warning sirens and the wah-de-dahing of the blondes, then the hysterical outburst of the pacifist and finally piano crescendos from Raymond Massey accompanying the sounds of bombs and antiaircraft guns. But Mr. Sherwood is too good to let such sheer theatre as piano and bombs pass; he lets you know that Harry Van once played the piano to accompany silent films in the old days.

Very skilfully has he introduced counterplots. The arms king's girlfriend (Tamara Geva), who at first seemed a cheap CiarboHepburn, knew Harry in the old vaudeville days and they come together at the end. He is an old pro' and the philosophy he has is that quaint, ingenuous American faith in human nature and hope in the future. Raymond Massey finds just that right touch of wisecracking smartstuff that reveals the American's weakness. It is a new line for him. As cabaret artiste he should go down well; he has the compere personality taped

—but his tap dancing!—tut-tut describes, it. Tamara Geva's performance grew strangely more powerful as one realised what she was.

Mr. Sherwood has not troubled to probe deep anywhere or to enter into polemics; neither does he go far in the making of his characters. But he has crammed an amazing amount of peace propaganda and sound entertainment into a very short time. J. G. Apollo.

The Zeal Of Thy House

It seems hardly fair to Miss Dorothy L. Sayers to describe The Zeal of Thy House as a religious play although its first production was at Canterbury Cathedral and its characters include Archangels. It would be better left a chronicle play about the building of the choir at Canterbury. As such, though dry, The Zeal of Thy House had the merit in the first act of brilliant satire (upon graft and upon the subtle management of public bodies) and in the second of human pathos (shattered man unable to fulfil his life's work).

The story is part history, part fancy. History ,supplies the existence of William of Sens (Harcourt Williams), architect chosen for the rebuilding of Lanfranc's "glorious choir." It supplies, too, the fact that Sens was prevented from completing his design and that William of England finished the restoration.

But fancy, special brand of Miss Sayers, supplied the gruff enthusiap and integrity of the, architect's character (why is one reminded so much of Eric Gill in Harcourt Williams' portrait?) supplied, too, the fun among the glamour-angelic species, and the reason why William of Sens was cut off in his prime and in the middle of his work for God.

And she would suggest that it was not God revenging Himself for man's love of the woman, Lady Ursula (a shadowy part played softly by Marie Ney), but for man's pride of life—his belief that he was not selfsufficient but God-sufficient.

While appreciating all the workmanlike qualities which Miss Sayers has brought to the planning of her structure, it remains a very tangible erection, plumbs no depths, dislodges no spiritual boulders, and sends at least one membei of the audience not to quiet contemplation but to the library to borrow one of Miss Sayers' detective stories.

Westminster. I. C.


The best thing in Moonshine is Mr. Arthur Sinclair and a cocky Cork man is he, spoiling for a fight, yet philosophical, kind and just aching to get his hands round

the throat of that who was the cause of his six months enforced acceptance of the State's hospitality. But I defy anyone to find or follow the plot of the play.

It is an Irish comedy, however. and takes place in Ballyshane. Not meant sneeringly this, but it would be a very good play for

amateurs. J. G. Ambassadors.

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