MYSTERY PLAYS ON THE AIR We Neglect Our Opportunities
I ID ete' 06 r■ile
The broadcast of another of Bernard Walke's mystery-plays, The Eve of All Souls, from the little village of St. Hilary in Cornwall last week, made one think wistfully, as usual, of how much Catholics might contribute, and of how little they do contribute to art of this kind. It was written in the charming, simple manner that has distinguished Mr. Walke's other mystery-plays, and performed by the St. Hilary players with a sincerity that cannot be described and is hard to over-praise.
Fitted to the Medium
And how admirably mystery-plays are suited to the microphone! One couldn't help thinking—wistfully again—of Robert Hugh Benson and of how his imagination would have set to work really to do something with this broadcasting business, which in his day of course was only in its cradle. He at least would never have remained content to write books which few but Catholics read or articles in newspapers which few but Catholics buy, or to lecture in halls and class-rooms which none but Catholics enter.
Most people have an idea of the power of the microphone nowadays. But he would never have rested till he had made it his own. In one's darker moments one cannot help feeling that to Catholic writers to-day Marconi must still be a myth.
What is Our Attitude?
In one's darker moments, too, one wonders whether the attitude of Catholics in general towards broadcasting is "How much can we get out of it?" not " How much can we give to it?" We have . a wealth of writers and artists and actors. There is so much they have it in their power to give.
If I were interviewed by a visitor from some other planet and asked what the Catholic contribution to this tremendous business of broadcasting has been in ten years I should be inclined to reply, well, honestly, nothing to write home about. (I am not talking of religious services and talks, of course.) What of the Guild?
I have always wondered too—and that broadcast by the St. Hilary players brought it to mind again—why the Catholic Stage Guild is so strangely shy of the microphone.
I am not in touch with the guild nor acquainted with its constitutions; but I presume that part of its object is to radiate outwards and not exclusively inwards. It does, for instance, take a theatre now and then and performs a play. It has not thought, I gather, of taking a worldtheatre—which incidentally would put them to no expense—and performing to a worldaudiensceu p.
To pose there are no writers to write
plays for them; to suppose the Director of Drama would turn down any good play specially written for the microphone; to suppose they couldn't provide him with script and players and production, all complete (as the St. Hilary players do)—well, that is unbelievable.
But while the attitude of Catholics in general towards the microphone is still one of indifference, one cannot be surprised that any one organization remains so unimaginative; even if it is the organization closest in touch with the activities of radio.
A Waste of Power
One of the things that sadeens me about radio is the frustration of its powers; the waste; about radio-drama in particular, the fact that it concerns itself with such trivialities.
Plays are not written about anything that matters. Where the great issues of the day might be made the theme of drama, we are put off at the best with such a theme as cruelty to animals. Couldn't the Catholic Stage Guild do something about this?
You wait, dear Listener, till the Colnmunists are in control. They know all about radio. They won't waste the air on tittle drawing-room comedies.
Army concert parties have made themselves very popular. Witness " The Roosters." The Navy, too, was represented by "Eight Bells." Now the Air Force has come into action with a show called Flying High," which will be heard for the first time on the National programme on November 25.
A distinguishing feature of this concert party is that all its cast are one-time members of the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service, and Royal Air Force. Did you know that Hugh Wakefield was once a Wing-Commander, Roy Royston a war-time pilot who got the Military Cross, or that Charles Brewer and Alan Russell, who will produce the show, were both Flight-Commanders? These and many other well-known names are in the cast, and to secure the right min of chorus to their
songs St. George's Hall is going to be tilled with members of the Comrades of the Royal Air Force Association. Most of the songs will be of the 1917/1918 vintage,.
The drama news for the next month or two is interesting. New plays from Lord Dunsany, L. du Garde Peach, and Patrick Hamilton. Barbara Burnham and James Hilton (that excellent partnership) will produce a radio version of the latter's novel " And Now Good-Bye." All who remember their version of " Good-Bye, Mr. Chipps " as One of the high-spots of radio drama will prick up their ears.
And that bright particular star of broadcasting, Gladys Young, is to play Miss Prism in " The Importance of Being Ernest." The cast of the latter sounds most promising, for it includes Ronald Squire, Mabel Terry Lewis, Austin Trevor, and Gwendolen Evans. The date is November 22 (National).
Lastly, some famous stage-plays by Alexandre Dumas, Galsworthy, and G. K. Chesterton are on the list.
Felix Felton specializes in feature-programmes; the ones that deal with the history of things, like electricity or road
traffic or parliamentary elections. His next is about the Post Office, and it will show how it has developed since the days of John Palmer (who invented the mailcoach) and Ralph Allen, in the eighteenth century. It was these two citiz,ens of Bath who instituted the system of cross-posts, thereby putting an end to the system of making all letters pass through London.
Mr. Felton is to give us also a comprehensive picture of the multitudinous problems with which the G.P.O. has to cope to-day. The date is November 20.
Scotland Yard will shortly be in the programmes. A programme called "Life in the Police Force " is being prepared by the B.B.C. Feature Department in cooperation with Scotland Yard, and it will be broadcast on November 29 and December 1,
The appearance of Leslie Heward as conductor for the first time of the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra at the Queen's Hall on November 25 will delight his many admirers. No one who has followed his first-rate work in Birmingham during the last year or two will be surprised at the honour; and the Midland Studio will have much to regret if it should be the prelude to his leaving Birmingham.