20 DECEMBER 1935, Page 14


Goosefeather Bed." By Charlton Hyde. At the Embassy Theatre, Swiss Cottage I AM not quite certain to whom this play should be ascribed. An advance announcement from the Embassy Theatre named Mr. John Hyde Severn us its author, the programme claims that it is by Mr. Charlton Hyde, and on the opening night Mr. van Gyseghem, the producer, addressed the audience on behalf of " my two very nervous authors, Miss Frances Doble and Lady Eleanor Smith." What, I wonder, is the point of adopting a pseudonym if its protection is so swiftly to be shed ? Perhaps it was thought that the, applause was a little perfunctory, and that this revelation might impress or intimidate the critics. Or perhaps the disclosure was a slip on the part of Mr. van Gyseghem—an almost solitary error in an evening which had shown one of his best pro- ductions ? In any event the pseudonym seems unnecessary as the play is neither bad enough to make the concealment of its authorship desirable to avoid the loss of a reputation, nor good enough for it to have derived much additional interest or publicity from the rumour that the programme's discreetly non-committal ascription concealed the identity of a brace of female celebrities. The point is only raised at all because the habit of using pseudonyms which are tactically dropped at a suitable moment is evidently growing. This occasion exhibited the practice in its most ridiculous light.

In any event the stratagem was wasted, because the audience appeared to have much less interest in the play itself than in the reappearance on the stage of Miss Jose Collins, who plays a leading part in it. Apart from personal reasons, they had the justification that she was playing one of the only two characters in the play that were both interesting and convincingly created. Her part is that of a Spanish gypsy surprisingly married to a conventional country gentle- man living in Devonshire. Their household, as might be expected with this violently contrasted pair at the head of it, exists in a perpetual turmoil. The elder son and the elder daughter have inherited more of their father's than of their mother's characteristics and are conventional and relatively tranquil, but in the younger son and the younger daughter their mother's instincts preponderate. The daughter, enchantingly played by Miss Yvonne Rorie, is a lively and temperamental child who is probably prevented only by her age from falling from grace as decisively as does her brother ; the plot revolves around the misdeeds of her brother Pepe, the child suppos?,d to take most unequivocally after his mother. As a matter of fact, the outward effects of his gypsy blood are rather disappointing. For a large part of the play his character is masked behind the Sanger-like façade of his family, and when he is brought into the foreground of the play he reveals only a rather supercilious and bad-tempered youth who amuses himself by assisting poachers to shoot the pheasants of his future brother-in-law and has fallen in love with a gypsy girl who is captured by the gamekeepers. She is an exceptionally unpleasant girl, but it takes the better part of two acts and half a dozen domestic, crises to persuade the entranced Pepe that happiness is more likely to be achieved apart from her than in her compady. • . Perhaps the actors are for once more than the authors to blame for the rather feeble effect which the play produced. Mr. Francis James invested the character of' Pepe with a particularly urban superciliousness which deprived the part of what plausibility it might have had : we do' not for a moment believe, as the plot requires us to do, that he might abscond to spend the rest of his life with the gypsies. Similarly though Miss Jean Shepeard played the gypsy girl with enor- mous determination the character by the time she.had finished with it had an overwhelmingly urban air. The minor parts were all competently but, with the exception of that taken by Miss Yvonne Rorie, dully played. On the other hand Miss Jose Collins displayed the opulent charm of her domesti- cated gypsy with such effect that, as I have said, the audience reserved almost all their enthusiasm for her appearances. It was difficult to blame them, for her acting was undoubtedly much more interesting than the play.