COatrto auix weir.
The Easter holydays are marked this year by two novel experiments in the way of dramatic entertainment, respectively made at the Lyceum and the Princess's.
At the Lyceum, we have one of those dramas, which, divided into a more than usual number of acts or tableaux, occupy an entire evening, and which, while common enough at some of the Parisian theatres, are all but unknown in this country, where multiplicity of pieces has always been deemed a dramatic requisite,—although from an existing repertoire we might easily imitate our Gallic neighbours by producing the two parts of Henry the Fourth in one night. The interest produced by these long pieces, which may consist of six, seven, or eight acts, with perhaps ano- ther act called a prologue, is rather that of the epic than of the dramatic kind; for the author, by taking in a long series of events, instead of con- fining himself to the elaboration of one or two striking points, has vir- tually passed the boundary which separates the drama from epopceia, although he employs theatrical means for the exhibition of his work. On this account, we greatly commend the judgment of the writer of the Ly- ceum piece in calling his work a "dramatic story," just as Shakspere gave the name of "history " to his less concentrated plays. The Chain of Events, as the Lyceum piece is named, is founded on La Dame de la Halle, a " drame " which achieved one of the most recent successes at the Parisian Ambigu-Comique. This drama is distinguished by the novel idea of heightening into a villain of the deepest die that kind of smart valet whose vices are ordinarily limited to peccadilloes. An adventurous menial, having at the request of a certain noble filched a certain will, is able, on finding his employer dead, to raise an humble young man to a marquisate, and to establish himself as major-domo in the family hotel. Here he reigns with as absolute power as Pepin in the days of the Merovingian Sings; but he soon finds a formidable adversary in the wife of the supposed Marquis, a fruiterer in the Paris market, who having caught a glimpse of her husband in his carriage, will not be per- suaded that he has died at St. Domingo, although a certificate of death has been forged to leave him free for a noble match. In the course of an interview which she obtains, the Marquis is forced to acknowledge her ; and as it is now in vain to assert that the dead plebeian and the living patrician are not one and the same person, the valet continues the war on another point. The Marquis, it is admitted, is the husband of the market-woman ; but then he married her while ignorant of his real rank, and it is now expedient that the nuptial tie should be annulled, that the noble may be at liberty to form an alliance worthy of his birth, and— what is most important—may be in a position to pay off a certain bond, which he has given to the valet. However, although the most brilliant pecuniary offers are made to the fruiterers, she will not resign the rights of herself and her child, and at last the impostor is overthrown by the ap- pearance of the real heir to the title and the estate. In his endeavour to escape from the officers of justice, he loses his life ; but his accomplice, who is more of a dupe than a knave, is allowed to live in humble Itappi- ne:ss with his original family.
In adapting this piece to the English stage, the author has pursued a ,
plan the reverse of that which is generally adopted in operations of the sort. Generally the French play is deemed too long, and the English version is an abridgment; but here the English version is an elongation, and when an effect could be produced the adapter has introduced into the action incidents which in the original are only recorded in the dialogue. The result is a succession of some of the most remarkable stage-effects ever witnessed in a drama not belonging to the region of fairy-land; while, by a careful elaboration of even the most minute personages, the spectator is carried back into the actual life of the period in which the drama is supposed to occur, namely, the earlier portion of the reign of Louis the Sixteenth. He breathes among the market-women, who, spark- ling in their best clothes, squabble, laugh, and chatter, with all the zeal of their profession, and with all the hilarity incident to the Carnival.
Their rights, customs, '
and manners, are brought forward with wonderful perspicuity ; and the chorus which they form is almost as interesting as the principal characters. To address the organ of sight, the unrivalled Beverley has done his utmost ; and, lured by his magic, the eye wanders over the market-place and the Palais Royal as if contemplating a reality. Nor in the ardour for decoration has the management remained satisfied with the arts of the painter and the costernier. A shipwreck near tho island of St. Domingo occurs in the story ; so a real ship is constructed, with real actors on board, and really sinks through the bottom of the stage : the fountain in the Marolie aux Innocents plays real water, and an unfortunate victim is really ducked. To give histrionic force to the piece, every person in the Lyceum company is employed, and well em- ployed ; good telling dialogue being put into the mouth of even the slightest characters. The acting of Mr. Charles Mathews as the valet— the cool, deliberate courageous villain—is one glory more to be added to the fame he has already acquired; and the good taste and feeling with which Madame Vestris played a matronly female, the mother of the fruit- eress, are much to be commended. It should be understood, that in our short description of the plot, we have by no means described all the inci- dents of the piece. Every one of the eight (1.) acts is marked by a die- duet strong situation; and the work is, m its way, a perfect curiosity in theatrical art.
That this elaborate method of production was the right way of making the story effective, is proved by the version of the same French piece at the Adelphi ; where it is done, as we are informed, more after the fashion of the .Ambigu. Ilere the piece appears as a meagre melodrame, with nothing to distinguish it from many works of the sort except inferiority of interest. The fact is, La Dame de la Halle is like carp—the sauce is of more consequence than the fish. Far more interesting is an operetta, called Mephistopheles, in which Miss Woolgar not only enacts the seduc- tive fiend, but two persons—a youth and a maiden—who become his avatars. The piece is slight, but the talent of the actress is admirably displayed. We have protested so long against the " man-about-town " allusions which oppress our burlesques every Christmas and Easter, that we hoped to hail with joy the entertainment at the Princess's, in which such al- lusions are avoided. The production of Wittikind and his .Brothers, as a serious fairy drama, is the other novel experiment to which we have al- luded above ; but we cannot record its complete success. The author, while meritoriously shunning the vulgar, has not soared into the poetical or the impassioned ; and the result is something which is neither comic nor pathetic, but decidedly dull. The decorations, however, deserve all praise. The burlesque on the Corsican Brothers, at the Haymarket, is a failure, the subject by no means yielding materials for mirth; although it has also been attempted in a similar spirit at the Olympic. Drury Lane tried to make a little show of renovation for Easter by a re- vival of that very old girl The Bohemian Girl ; but far more effective is the declaration of war against Mr. Sims Reeves, which the manager has within the last few days posted against the walls of the metropolis. Mr. Sims Reeves promises a pamphlet in return ; and we suspect the public will arrive at a decision not precisely similar to that of Henry the Fourth when he said to the contending advocates, " Gentlemen, no doubt you are both in the right." The Marionettes are in a state of healthy activity,—the story of Aladdin having been gorgeously put on the puppet-stage by Mr. Simpson ; and Astley's sings the campaign of Napoleon in Egypt,—having probably taken its subject from a piece played at the Equestrian theatre of Paris, and encouraged by the worthy President. At the St. Tames's, the reopening after Passion week is signalized by the production of Mademoiselle de la Seigliere, (known here as the Man of Late,) with M. Regnier and Mademoiselle Denain as the chief performers.