Gilray's Dream





Conceive me (said Gilray, with glowing face) invited to write a

criticism of the Critics' Dramatic Society for the _Standard_.

I select the _Standard_, because that paper has treated me most

cruelly. However, I loathe them all. My dream is the following

criticism:



What is the Critics' Dramatic Society? We found out on Wednesday

afternoon, and, as we went to Drury Lane in the interests of the public,

it is only fair that the public should know too. Besides, in that case

we can all bear it together. Be it known, then, that this Dramatic

Society is composed of critics who gave The School for Scandal at

a matinée on Wednesday just to show how the piece should be played.

Mr. Augustus Harris had kindly put the theatre at their disposal,

for which he will have to answer when he joins Sheridan in the Elysian

Fields. As the performance was by far the worst ever perpetrated, it

would be a shame to deprive the twentieth century of the programme. Some

of the players, as will be seen, are too well known to escape obloquy.

The others may yet be able to sink into oblivion.





Sir Peter Teazle MR. JOHN RUSKIN.

Joseph Surface MR. W. E. HENLEY.

Charles Surface MR. HARRY LABOUCHERE.

Crabtree MR. W. ARCHER.

Sir Benjamin Backbite MR. CLEMENT SCOTT.

Moses MR. WALTER SICHEL.

Old Rowley MR. JOSEPH KNIGHT.

Sir Oliver MR. W.H. POLLOCK.

Trip MR. G. A. SALA.

Snake MR. MOY THOMAS.

Sir Harry Bumper (with song) MR. GEORGE MOORE.

Servants, Guests, etc. MESSRS. SAVILLE CLARKE,

JOSEPH HATTON, PERCY FITZGERALD, etc.



Assisted by



Lady Teazle MISS ROSIE LE DENE.

Mrs. Candour MISS JENNY MONTALBAN.

Lady Sneerwell MISS ROSALIND LABELLE

(The Hon. Mrs. Major TURNLEY).

Maria MISS JONES.





It was a sin of omission on the part of the Critics' Dramatic Society

not to state that the piece played was a new and original comedy

in many acts. Had they had the courage to do this, and to change the

title, no one would even have known. On the other hand, it was a sin

of commission to allow that Professor Henry Morley was responsible

for the stage management; Mr. Morley being a man of letters whom some

worthy people respect. But perhaps sins of omission and commission

counterbalance. The audience was put in a bad humor before the

performance began, owing to the curtain's rising fifteen minutes late.

However, once the curtain did rise, it was an unconscionable time in

falling. What is known as the business of the first act, including the

caterwauling of Sir Benjamin Backbite and Crabtree in their revolutions

round Joseph, was gone through with a deliberation that was cruelty

to the audience, and just when the act seemed over at last these

indefatigable amateurs began to dance a minuet. A sigh ran round the

theatre at this--a sigh as full of suffering as when a minister, having

finished his thirdly and lastly, starts off again, with, I cannot allow

this opportunity to pass. Possibly the Critics' Dramatic Society are

congratulating themselves on the undeniable fact that the sighs and

hisses grew beautifully less as the performance proceeded. But that was

because the audience diminished too. One man cannot be expected to sigh

like twenty; though, indeed, some of the audience of Wednesday sighed

like at least half a dozen.






If it be true that all men--even critics--have their redeeming points

and failings, then was there no Charles and no Joseph Surface at this

unique matinée. For the ungainly gentleman who essayed the part of

Charles made, or rather meant to make, him spotless; and Mr. Henley's

Joseph was twin-brother to Mr. Irving's Mephistopheles. Perhaps the idea

of Mr. Labouchere and his friend, Mr. Henley, was that they would make

one young man between them. They found it hard work. Mr. Labouchere

has yet to learn that buffoonery is not exactly wit, and that Charles

Surfaces who dig their uncle Olivers in the ribs, and then turn to the

audience for applause, are among the things that the nineteenth century

can do without. According to the programme, Mr. George Moore--the Sir

Harry Bumper--was to sing the song, Here's to the Maiden of Bashful

Fifteen. Mr. Moore did not sing it, but Mr. Labouchere did. The

explanation of this, we understand, was not that Sir Harry's heart

failed him at the eleventh hour, but that Mr. Labouchere threatened to

fling up his part unless the song was given to him. However, Mr. Moore

heard Mr. Labouchere singing the song, and that was revenge enough for

any man. To Mr. Henley the part of Joseph evidently presented no serious

difficulties. In his opinion, Joseph is a whining hypocrite who rolls

his eyes when he wishes to look natural. Obviously he is a slavish

admirer of Mr. Irving. If Joseph had taken his snuff as this one does,

Lady Sneerwell would have sent him to the kitchen. If he had made love

to Lady Teazle as this one does, she would have suspected him of weak

intellect. Sheridan's Joseph was a man of culture: Mr. Henley's is a

buffoon. It is not, perhaps, so much this gentleman's fault as his

misfortune that his acting is without either art or craft; but then he

was not compelled to play Joseph Surface. Indeed, we may go further, and

say that if he is a man with friends he must have been dissuaded from

it. The Sir Peter Teazle of Mr. Ruskin reminded us of other Sir Peter

Teazles--probably because Sir Peter is played nowadays with his

courtliness omitted.






Mr. William Archer was the Crabtree, or rather Mr. Archer and the

prompter between them. Until we caught sight of the prompter we had

credited Mr. Archer with being a ventriloquist given to casting his

voice to the wings. Mr. Clement Scott--their Benjamin Backbite--was a

ventriloquist too, but not in such a large way as Mr. Archer. His voice,

so far as we could make out from an occasional rumble, was in his boots,

where his courage kept it company. There was no more ambitious actor

in the cast than Mr. Pollock. Mr. Pollock was Sir Oliver, and he gave

a highly original reading of that old gentleman. What Mr. Pollock's

private opinion of the character of Sir Oliver may be we cannot say; it

would be worth an interviewer's while to find out. But if he thinks Sir

Oliver was a windmill, we can inform him at once that he is mistaken. Of

Mr. Sichel's Moses all that occurs to us to say is that when he let his

left arm hang down and raised the other aloft, he looked very like a

tea-pot. Mr. Joseph Knight was Old Rowley. In that character all we saw

of him was his back; and we are bound to admit that it was unexceptional.

Sheridan calls one of his servants Snake, and the other Trip. Mr. Moy

Thomas tried to look as like a snake as he could, and with some success.

The Trip of Mr. Sala, however, was a little heavy, and when he came

between the audience and the other actors there was a temporary eclipse.

As for the minor parts, the gentlemen who personated them gave a capital

rendering of supers suffering from stage-fever. Wednesday is memorable

in the history of the stage, but we would forget it if we could.





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