10 NOVEMBER 1950, Page 14



"Party Manners." By Val Gielgud. (Princes).

ALTHotibit it must, however reluctantly, be admitted that this play offers agreeable entertainment and has, superficially, an urbane and good-natured atmosphere, it is intolerable that public performances of it should continue to be permitted. Much as one admires the courageous, single-handed and happily successful attempt by the Daily Herald to shield the public from the impact of its second performance on television, one must regret that so fearless a stand in defence of the decencies was made on the wrong ground. It was indeed as tasteless as it was implausible to suggest, as Mr. Gielgud does, that a Socialist Minister might be capable of sub- ordinating, on the eve of a General Election, the interests of the nation to those of his party ; but the Labour Party is, after all, capable of looking after itself, as it showed by the prompt action which it took to prevent Party Manners being diffused more than once into the homes of the electorat;.

It is another institution—much older, much smaller, much more defenceless—than the present Government and the great party behind it which in this play bears the brunt of those powers of innuendo and denigration which Mr. Gielgud has thought fit to deploy. Both the principal characters,--the one a renegade oppor- tunist, the other a sot—are Old Etonians. One knows, of course, that Etonians, even when they are also Socialists, are sometimes less than admirable characters ; but lo imply, as our author does, that their Alma Mater tolerates bullying, provides a scanty and superficial education and induces in the more sensitive type of lad a lifelong grievance against society is surely to exceed the bounds not only of dramatic licence but of propriety. A more damaging slur upon an old-established and on the whole well-intentioned seat of learning can hardly be imagined ; and many will ask themselves how it is that the Provost and Fellows have apparently taken no measures to secure the suppression of a play so harmful to the dignity and prestige of the school. They must be unusually thick-skinned.

The performance of this shocking piece is workmanlike. Mr. Michael Hordem plays the Socialist Old Etonian with a light, assured touch, Mr. Raymond Lovell over-acts amusingly as his former fagmaster, Mr. George Merritt gives an air of great reality to the Cabinet Minister whose conduct elicited those shrill blasts of indignation from the Daily Herald, and Miss Diana Calderwood