24 DECEMBER 1948, Page 17


THE dramatic critic is reminded at Christmas that Nature intended him not only to be childless (doubtless a comparatively easy feat, if you give your mind to it) but also to be capable of being in several different places at the same time. If he has three or four children and an. adequate supply of grown-ups to fulfil the functions, so to' speak, of second horseman, he may be able to fit them all into a programme from which he will never be forgiven for leaving them out ; but the administrative problems involved are extremely com- plex, and he yearns for the day when dramatic criticism will be nationalised and there will be civil servants to escort dependent personnel of the lower age-groups to their seats and the taxpayer will pay for all the taxis.

I am writing in any case too early to deal with the specifically Christmas entertainments and in the hope that some random guidance to the non-seasonal productions, of which more than thirty are running in the West End, may be of use to readers of The Spectator. I shall say nothing about Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, Bless the Bride, Edward, My Son, and others that have all been on for more than a year, and those of you who haven't yet decided whether you want to see them or not are clearly so irresolute that you are past any help I might be able to give you. Besides, I gave it last Christmas. Of the straight plays, I think myself that The Browning Version (which is the first part of Mr. Rattigan's Playbill) is the best to be seen in LondonMr. Huxley's The Gioconda Smile is a first-rate psychological thriller, and Miss Mabel, by Mr. R. C. Sherriff, is a disarming and skilful anecdote about a dear old lady who poisons her sister. There is also an exceptionally fine revival of Ibsen's The Wild Duck with a very strong cast ; Mr. Alastair Sim in Mr. Bridie's The Anatomist (about the murderers Burke and Hare) is well worth seeing and Miss Gertrude Lawrence's return in a play by Miss Daphne du Maurier is noticed elsewhere.

The funniest play I have seen is Traveller's Toy, in which Miss Yvonne Arnaud enchantingly illustrates the impact of Treasury restrictions on the British traveller abroad. Don't Listen, Ladies ! is an agreeable, stylish comedy adapted from the French, with Mr. Francis Lister proving a very fair substitute for M. Sacha Guitry, and Little Lambs Eat Ivy, by Mr. Noel Langley, which is about one of those jolly, non-existent families we so often see on'the stage, is the sort of play you may conceivably like if you like that sort of a play. The Old Vic is offering three productions, of which The Cherry Orchard is the only one really up to its recent standards.

There are three good revues. Oranges and Lemons (with Miss Diana Churchill) is friendly and intelligent, Slings and Arrows (with Miss Hermione Gingold) is astringent and allusive, and A La Carte with Miss Hermione Baddeley) comes somewhere between the two ; all three are very funny. So is One Wild Oat, a farce in the old Aldwych tradition with Messrs. Robertson Hare and Alfred Drayton ; but if you prefer your entertainment to be refined you can get some—though not a great deal—from Mr. John Gielgud's revival of an Edwardian comedy of manners called The Return of the Prodigal. The Happiest Days of Your Life, being about the temporary merger of a boys' school with a girls' school and extremely amusing at that, is a safe bet if your nephews and nieces have reached the stage of being snooty about pantomimes. As for musical plays, Mr. Arthur Askey (but nobody else) is very funny in The Kid From Stratford, in Cage Me a Peacock Miss Yolande Donlan (but again nobody else) is most beguiling, and there is always—thank heavens—Mr. Leslie Henson in Bob's Your Uncle. Don't on any account go to—Ah, but I see it has come off, so there is no need to dilute the Christmas spirit with a dash of bitters.