Men Blundering Amidst Enchantments
Pleasant it is on a summer evening to sit in Queen Mary's Gardens and watch the play. The birds sing invisibly, and the moths rise white before the arc lamps.
Searchlights in the east and in the south cut open in thin segments the darkness, and an airplane flies alone with subdued noise in a sky where stars appear among the tattered clouds.
Within a sandy space among the trees and bushes you have the febrile music and movement of harpies and nymphs; the lechery, drunkenness, malice and envy of men blundering amidst enchantments, the love and wonder of these men also and the poetry of their words.
It would be more pleasant still were there true warmth of summer in this evening. But the air is cold.
You fold your arms around your body closely, and turn up the collar of the thin raincoat . . ineffectual gestures. The attendants arc hawking army blankets. You would take one were it not for an absurd conviction — which probably has a good deal in common with the new mythology about Nordic super-men—that by doing so you imperilled your male dignity.
So you listen to Prospero and try to forget that you are cold. But it is difficult for Prospero speaks too gently.
This blameless magician, who plays the tyrant with moral righteousness, and does all things without mistake can be irritating in his solemnity, and this evening he is, perhaps because Mr. Philip Merivale, besides speaking too gently, is uncertain at times whether his character has any more attributes other than being a wronged, wise man.
When Ariel comes, however, stanchless and full of eagerness, you forget all material discomfort, and listen with complete sympathy to his lovely voice, or rather her lovely voice, for Ariel is played by Peggy Bryon, speaking impetuous delight or with sulkiness.
There is much dancing, by young women in wispy chiffon, and young men in shockheaded wigs, and
Bucolic strange monstrosities Crudity from Robert Atkins
as a bestial Caliban.
The humour in the play—as every critic has remarked at some time or anothen—is weak. There is a bucolic crudity about it which jars on our slick city senses. Nevertheless, Roy Byford as the drunken butler, does, by the vigour of his pantomime, cause you to laugh sometimes, perhaps a little patronisingly, but then you did not want to laugh even patronisingly.
Marvellously foolish and urbane is Morris Harvey as Gonzalo, and David Tree by his beauty gives all excuse to Miranda's rapture, and accounts more seriously for himself by making Ferdinand something more interesting than junior male lead.
But at the end of it all, with the applause finished, and the sea creatures and
nymphs gone away, and the light fading from Ariel, there are still the searchlights in the sky. The coloured lamps hung around the enclosure give the comfort of human jollity, but above are the searchlights stretching austere fingers against war, reminding us "our little life is rounded,
with a sleep." P. P. T.
Open Air Theatre
Yew Tree Farm
A tale of a fiery Sussex farmer, his four daughters, and a son. Tradition, and close family feelings—which at times bubble over and rise to anger to protect their ideals— the simple poetry of a farmhouse existence form the atmosphere in which this play opens.
One of the daughters, Nelly, is dumb, but is her father's favourite. She is the one who dominates and runs the homelife. When the only son runs off to marry the girl he loves, but who is not a farmer's daughter, it is Nelly who makes the way easy for her brother, even using the whip on her father in order to uphold what she thinks is right.
The father dies of grief, leaving the farm to Nelly. Fifty years pass, the four sisters are still together. Nothing has changed, except the times. They are very, very poor.
Nelly owns the farm, but it is Nan, the second sister, who runs it Again a crossing of wills, the farm, and its many really valuable antiques, which the father had bought for a song, must be sold. The everyday life goes on, the poetry continues, the apple harvest is bad, and finally Nelly gives in to her sisters and signs away her beloved memories. But the silver lining shows through, and the play ends on a joyful note, to the simple poetry of the apple harvest, friends round the table at a traditional birthday party, and the prospect of things never changing.
The play is written and produced by Wilfred Bentley, a young Catholic playwright, who has previously produced two plays of his own at the Perth Repertory Theatre and who has just finished another for presentation in the autumn.
Yew Tree Farm is a simple and unpretentious tale, which nevertheless provides arresting drama. F. N. G.
Sexes And Sevens
Sexes and Sevens is a comedy of old situations and jokes old and new. It took some time to warm the audience up, but in the end we were all in good humour.
Chief tribute must go to the actors, who well carried out a difficult and tiring task.
Eric Fawcett and Mark Daly deserve congratulation for the pace and verve with which they tackle their job—without their efforts the play would have been vulgar without being funny F. 13.