By GRACE CONWAY
Catholics were mentioned twice in the Battle of the Theatrical Sunday which took place between actors and actresses and other members of the entertainment profession at the Saville Theatre last Friday.
To those who objected to the Sunday opening of theatres on religious grounds an actor-manager said : " I am not a Catholic, but I have a keen memory of Catholics on tour who wanted to go to Mass on Sundays but were prevented because of having to travel all day—and terrible travel it was, too."
Lewis Casson quoted the edict that forbids Catholic priests to go to the theatre at all—while the Church allows them to go to cinemas and even music " There are people in this country who feel there is something intrinsically evil in the theatre," Mr. Casson said.
" if we want moral guidance we won't go to the theatre for it," said one. " We hear a great deal about the Sabbath,' said Leslie Henson, " but the Sabbath is a Jewish festival and really occurs on a Saturday."
" Let's get the facts right," demanded another speaker. " Is it the Sunday we Those for Sunday Opening want:
A six-day week for duration of the war with the day of rest staggered in London—optional in provinces.
Those against want :
No Sunday shows--except for charity.
want to keep holy—or the week-end for those who like to spend it in the country?"
HYPOCRISY CHARGE From Mr. O'Brien, chairman of the National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees, came this : " The English Sabbath as it is understood to-day is something that the English Puritans imposed on the working-classes. While they themselves enjoyed Sundays in whatever way they pleased they gave money to build chapels for the poor. It is the last word in hypocrisy to say that going to the theatre on Sunday is a sin against God."
Robert Speaight, who works constantly on the B.B.C. on Sundays, was one of the most ardent " antis." " If you open theatres on Sundays, then you open testaments." (Cries of " They're open raw!") Mr. Speaight, however, was anxious to dissociate himself from the Lord's Day Observance, Society, using the words " obsolete and grotesque."
Leslie Banks, resigned from the Council of Equity in order to oppose the innovation, talked about the British Sunday as being part of the " blood
and bones and guts of the British people."
A niagara of !oseiy English, spoken by some of the most expensive voices in the theatre, tossed the issue hither and thither—Michael Redgrave, Peggy Ashcroft, Hartley Power, who blew sky high the altruistic argument that Sunday theatres would benefit the Service men and women, by saying that none of them could afford 14s. 6d. for a seat, which is what London theatres charge for a stall. Mr. J. B. Priestley joined in asking for Sunday openings—especially in the industrial cities where warworkers are subjected to boredom and strain.
GRIM PROVINCES Grim pictures of the provinces—with young people hanging about the streets waiting tor the pubs to open, or queueing up to go to a picture they have already seen during the week, of too much drinking. And grim pictures, too, of the ghastly Sunday spent by provincial actors and actresses who form 80 per cent. of their profession and who, Mr. Henson reminded us, never sec London—waiting for trains on draughty platforms, spending the great British Day or Rest in a travesty of travel in tedium and discomfort.
All the " antis " suggested that the theatrical profession should give their services free to the Forces and warworkers on Sunday—but a Macclesfield theatregoer said war-workers did not want charity—they could afford to pay for a seat in a provincial theatre—but they wanted the opportunity to do so on a Sunday.
And so the arguments went on. Round about 3 o'clock, when a show of hands had been taken, we filed out feeling suddenly hungry. And a man behind me said to his companion: "They needn't worry. In live yea's' time there'll he no theatres and no music halls either."