By R.14/ .S.
Home and Continental
The English stage is notoriously hospitable to foreign artists; and the warmth of our welcome to these distinguished guests is only equalled by our reluctance to use many of our finer native players. How often do we see Miss Haidee Wright, Miss Henrietta Watson, or Miss Veronica Turleigh in a part worthy of their powers?
No performance by a foreign actor or actress that I have seen recently in London has equalled Miss Wright. as Queen Elizabeth or Miss Watson's Lady Athalieh in Frolic Wind. These arc among the great memories of the modern stage. And yet we now have foreign stars at two theatres in the West End.
Miss Lucy Mannheim has made a gre.it personal success at the Criterion in a pieee whose unblushing theatricality el itbarrassed long after it had ceased to amuse.
Nina was a film star of whose quality Miss Mannheim perfectly convinced us. But she, like others of her kind, was afflicted by a no.vtalgie de la champagne, or. to put it more briefly, for Hampshire.
When she retires her film " double" takes her place and " Nina Dollar " goes off • to Hollywood to reveal a new personality to the world. On her return she not only, like many other mortals, disembarks at Southampton but she arranges her premiere and persomil appearance in that town.
For this event, the dramatist assures as. both Mr. Eddie Maugh and Mr. Osbsrt Sitwell come down from London, and when it is all over we are not surprised that! the new Nina pays a midnight visit to the old.
But here our dramatist. who for two and a half acts has walked the tight-rope of improbability, is unable to keep his balance. We are expecting a scene a faiee between the two women; such a scene would be sonic small reparation for the dramatic injustices of the evening; but he cannot arrange the meeting for a simple reason. Both the Ninas are played by Miss Lucy Mannheim.
An Open Question Now not even Miss Mannheim can Neal: miracles. She can play two parts, wear two wigs. produce two voices. She can establish a sufficient identity and a sufficient difference. She can he beautiful and pretty, cultivated and common. But she cannot be in two places at the same time. And thus the logical end to the play —if logic can proceed from impossible premises—must he sacrificed to her virtuosity.
I am sure that Miss Mannheim is much too serious an artist to wish to be judged
on her performance in this rubbish. She is evidently a very accomplished actre-is, with intelligence. temperament, distinction and charm. You cannot but enjoy watching her.
Indeed, you will miss a fascinating essay in histrionics if you don't pay a visit to the Criterion. But whether she is an artist or deep quality will not be known until she appears in a real part. When she does. I think she may give us a memorable evening.
" The Soldier's Fortune"
The product ion of The Soldier's Fortune at the Ambassadors raised many questions. What are we to say of a piece which the censor of plays would certainly not pass to-day? In what ways are its coarseness and blunt cynicism superior to modern salacity? Does it shock or does it entertain? Does it, perhaps, do both?
The plot need not detain us, for it ss at once too confused to follow and toa indelicate to describe. The play states. and does not suggest, its meaning. it :s free from innuenoo and vulgarity. It is nowhere sentimental. and not seldom dull. Indeed, it seems to me, in its crude humours, an entidote to unlawful affection.
At the same time it would be hypocrisy to pretend that it is anything but the product of a society wholly divorced from Christian values. The Puritans had done their work by the time it was written, and their fanaticism had brought chastity into contempt. The tremendous sanity of Shakespeare and the greater Elizabethans on the subject of " sex " was lost for ever; and The Soldier's Fortune is the ancestor of the bedroom farce. even if we think the parent more honest than the child.
It is nowhere near the masterpieces ol the Restoration stage. It has neither the satiric force of Wycherley, the invention or the vigour of Vanbrugh, the polish of Farquahr, or the wit, the style, and the artifice of Congreve. It is no more thao it pretends to be—a rather naughty entertainment for the Mall.
Mr. Baliol Holloway and Miss Athene Seyler swaggered and rollicked their way through the chief parts with exactly the right panache; their acting was all sauce and no sentiment. By sparing their own blushes they spared ours. And Mr. Roy Byford in the part of his life lagged an whit behind them.