17 MAY 1957, Page 20

Done by Mirrors

Restless Heart. By Jean Anouilh. (St. James's.) Psi! Are we alone? You don't need to incriminate yourself but aren't you get- ting the least bit suspicious about M. Anouilh's pictures of innocence in danger? Isn't there something a trifle fishy about these divine, sunlit creatures, these eliquisite young Romeos, these fragile, tender Juliets trailing clouds of sulphur and sewer gas? Not a bit? Then Restless Heart may possibly remove the scales from your eyes. It concerns Mai Zetterling, who plays a very poor but exquisitely virginal fiddle in the grotesque cafe orchestra of her father, Donald Pleasence- an egg-stained old monster of drunkenness, avarice and vulgarity—and mother, Betty Warren, a raddled harlot of the same kidney. This swan amongst crows is carried off by a Prince Charm- ing, strong, rich, glamorous, a piano-playing denizen of one of M. Anouilh's numerous châteaux. The unfortunate young man has the devil's own job overcoming his Cinderella's appalling inferiority complex and hasn't a hope when this turns into a social conscience. Transla- tion: wooden. Production (by William Chappell): excellent. Acting: fair to good. The piece con- tains, like the least of M. Anouilh's plays, scenes of a tense and magnificent theatricality; he has, like most of us, pretty few basic ideas, but, unlike most of us, improvises on them with enough sleight-of-hand to get along with. No conjurer is

ever ill-advised enough to show one the works, but this early play at least shows M. Anouilh in slow motion, slow enough to give away the cynicism and inadequacy of his philosophy.* I suspect the trick will never seem quite so con-