1 APRIL 1922, Page 11


(To THE EDITOR OP THE " SPECTATOR.") SIR,—I have read your dramatic critic's observations on the painted architecture in the later acts of David Garrick at the Queen's Theatre, and I should, as an architect, like to add my own testimony. I. too, like your critic, went to see this play purely for the sake of Mr. Paul Shelving's dresses and decor, and, as regards the former at least, was well rewarded. The set of the first, avt involves no "architecture" properly speaking, being A forznal gaiden cn fete with great trelliage arches docked Out' with 'faire-lights, a delightful and stately background to a whirling masquerade. _In the next two aets,


however, we are given interiors apparently and happily inspired by Mr. Lovat Fraeer's setting for the Beggar's Opera. The same simple conventions are used to suggest a Hanoverian background—the whited, barred sash windows, the lunette and the ail de boeuf—but one supposes that Mr. Shelving, not content with these hints, felt' that the thing looked a bit too severe and bare, and so added a number of ill-conceived quasi- architectural " features" that no Georgian or any other architect would have countenanced. There may be no particular merit in maintaining the architectural unities or in displays of scholarship or even in a sense of "period "—indeed, they may be (like everything else) tiresome in excess—but to suggest first the idealized eighteenth century of the Beggar's Opera and Hogartb, and then to take it all back again with trimmings borrowed from Mid-Victorian sideboards is at least disconcert- ing. Your critic unkindly compares these embellishments to the decoration of a twentieth-century tea-shop, but he is no more just than kind, for the modern tea-shop often has eon- ' siderable claims to architectural consideration, whilst surely R3 one but a provincial undertaker could be happy with the coarse, lumpish, and ill-proportioned mouldings, swags, pilaster caps and other details of " A Room in Ingot's House."

The geneial conception is Well enough, but in the details Mr. Shelving haS evidently.beee.badly let down by someone. Not infrequently the most impressive thing about a modern. production is the list of all the experts concerned appearing at the foot of the programme. Wigs, dresses, shoes, lighting effects, " illusions," " period furniture," and " The Great Danes in the third act " have each been provided by someone who is a specialist in that particular _line and who has very properly been called in to help the producer in the realization of his ideas. There is also, of course, the scenery by a scene painter, the music by a musician, and, indeed, the play by a playwright—all confidently named as "Proper Men" specially trained and skilled in their several vocations. It is usually only the "architectural effects" that are anonymous, and quite obviously the special concern of nobody more authoritative than a scene paintee's assistant. It were, perhaps, as unreasonable to expect tolerable architecture from a scene painter as effective scene painting frorii an architect, but one would have thought it worth-somebody's while to go to an architect for a little advice when architecture is involved in the set.

A good case may be made out for the omission of all archi- tecture of a stylistic sort, together with all other realism in the sets of certain sorts of play, but if architecture as ordinarily understood is to be introduced at all, it seems a pity that it should not be. as well done and as " competent " as the wigs and dresses and the rest of the items of what collectively con- stitute the "decor."

Happily, there are honourable exceptions to the general rule that " any sort of architecture will do for the stage," and they are not so rare as they used to be, though we may still see other- wise admirable productions blemished by quite gratuitious solecisms when it comes to architecture. Seeing the theatres that they have to work in, it is not to be wondered at if pro- ducers are shy of seeking-the help of architects on the stage itself, but someone ,Ought to remind theta that the London theatres were mostly built by special " theatre- architects" in an unfothinete fashion at an unfortnnate time, and that tho deplorable Coneequeicee cannot fairly be used against the ordinary architect. of to-day..

Mr. Granville Barker ;is -renowned for a scrupulous nicety in the matter of stage details, and what he says in his new book, The Exemplary Theatre, is:-much to.the point :— " Our aim is to make of the theatre a place where the senses are sharpened to immediate response, most immediate in the actors, contributively in all the workers ascendant or distri- buted, resultantly in the audience. It follows, does it not, that there will be a response to coarse stimuli as to fine, and always an easier letting down into the slough of bad taste than a tuning up to good. Therefore one cannot afford to knock a nail in wrong."

Certainly one should not be excused for publicly exhibiting had architecture when good may be had for the same cost (or less), though possibly at the expense of a little more trouble.