28 AUGUST 1926, Page 11


THE ART OF MR.. SEYMOUR HICKS [" THE TRUTH ABOUT THE RUSSIAN DANCERS." BY J. M. BARRIE. " SLEEPING PARTNERS." BY SACIIA GUITRY. TRANSLATED BY SEYMOUR HICKS. SAVOY THEATRE.] INASMUCH as the first of these two inconsequent pieces was admittedly written only for the express purpose of allowing us to see exquisite Madame Karsavina on her exquisite toes—a wholly admirable purpose, let me add—much may be forgiven to its distinguished author. One wonders, though, whether the revival of this foolish little play was timely, or will do anything but detract from Sir James' reputation. The Truth about the Russian Dancers is, I fear, without point or humour. Even the usual " whimsical " touches don't come off. A gentleman called the " Honourable Bill " seemed to me lunacy personified, nor did a heavy-handed production in an ugly " set " help matters. Fancy was crushed and never came to life. Madame Karsavina did her best with it and pirouetted divinely, but I have seldom spent a more uncomfortable half- hour in the theatre. The truth is that no one but its author could have " got away " (to use an Americanism) with this mass of cloying sentiment, not all of it, incidentally, in the best of taste. If you or I had written it we should have been laughed out of London. With respect to a popular, almost a legendary, figure and, in his way, a writer of genius, I suggest that Sir James Barrie sometimes abuses the privileges of the fine position he has won for himself in our affections.

What a relief it was when the curtain rose on M. Guitry's witty little jest which Mr. Seymour Hicks, versatile as ever, has translated with so much point and, I suspect, considerable English discretion, from the French original of his friend. Adapted, perhaps, would be the better word, for I got the im- pression, time and again, that Mr. Hicks had taken the bit between his teeth and was saying pretty much what he chose. He is always, even when " gagging," the supreme artist. It must be that this impulsive, lovable man never grows older. More years ago than I care to remember I look back on a wintry afternoon at the old Vaudeville Theatre and three hours of unalloyed joy. Dick, the shoeblack in Bluebell in Fairyland, was played by a Mr. Seymour Hicks. That, I thought, was the man for me. I still think so. Mr. Hicks is unique. We have no one like him. He is the playboy of the theatrical world. His curiously mobile face has certain Gallic characteristics, and he is probably the only English actor of whom it can be said that he would be an equal success as a light comedian on the French stage. In most ways, I suppose, Mr. Hicks is a -typical, warm-hearted Englishman, but he does not restrain his feelings in our English way, and there is a brilliant quickness about him. He typifies the Parisian as well as the Londoner, The mixture, when genuine, as it is in his case, is uncommon. It accounts, doubtless, for his friendship with the Guitry family. If only he and Sachs and Mlle. Printemps could be persuaded to play together on the same stage That would be an evening worth while.

And yet I think Mr. Hicks is, in some respects, a solitary, rather, pathetic figure in our theatre. He is an actor, first and always, an amazingly brilliant actor and the most per- suasive stage lover I know, but an actor. He would be the- first to admit it, the first to be proud of it. But things are changing in the English theatre. New forces are at work ;- I wonder whetber Mr. Hicks will either be able to keep up with them or desire to do so. He is not, one feels, interested in the wider meaning of the term Theatre," nor in the repertory movement. He has expressed old-fashioned views on the subject often enough. New developments in stage production do not appeal to him, and it must regretfully be admitted that if the average play in which he acts is anything to go by he has no great literary judgment. It seems as if there is a danger that he may find no place in the dramatic revival which is suddenly sweeping over England. It will be nothing less than a tragedy if it sweeps over Mr. Hicks.

Steeping Partners is a delightful trifle which M. Guitry is too wise a man to ask us to take au grand serieux. Though he Makes it a thing of joy, it is really not worthy of Mr. Hicks' great talent. But one cannot have everything, and if you would laugh away a summer evening I would recommend a visit to the Savoy Theatre. Gracious Miss Ellaline Terriss supports her husband with her accustomed charm, but she is not and never has been a clever enough actress to play up to him. Mr. Edmund Givenn, in an incredible beard, adds greatly to the gaiety of nations.


After a visit to the States, Mr. Jack Hulbert's bright little revue, By the Way, is once again charming his many admirers. It is a pleasing entertainment, full of colour, with only a few dull moments. There are one or two clever sketches, of which the best is " The Elopement," a delightful wire- less burlesque. The show relies entirely for its success on the versatility of Miss Cicely Courtneidge and the astonishing antics of Mr. Hulbert, both of whom radiate good spirits. By the Way strikes no new note, but all those who look for a joyful evening with plenty of music and laughter will find their wants supplied by a visit to the Gaiety Theatre.

E. S. A.