LONDON audiences still thirst after thrills. They want to be dramatically bullied, disturbed, or oppressed. This season we have endured a series of rather monotonous moral shocks, provided by plays not fit for the elderly. The physical stimulus must be added.
We get it in " plain unvarnished dramas of life in the tropics," as the advertisements of one of them, White Cargo—a Very good one—put it. We get it in Rain at the Garrick Theatre, in Ordeal at the Strand. In one case, it is thrust at us through catibursti of thunder—in Me hes of lightning that match the madness of a chief character ; in another, it filters through the steady downpour that makes the front rows of the stalls feel twinges of rheumatism and shivers of malaria. Only snow, so far, is absent as a background for violent emotion ; perhaps because, so often utilized in Shore- ditch melodrama, it has been found less easily controllable than thunder and rain. It may fall effectively, in the great scene, upon the lost mother and her fatherless babe. The trouble is that it will go on falling in dilatory flakes upon her marriage, in church, or upon her reception by the home fireside. But who can doubt that a producer so competent as Mr. Basil Dean could elaborate a safe device ? I suggest (without hope of reward from the next violent playwright) an enclosed tussle between tigerish temperaments, within the walls of a Swiss sanatorium for mental cases, in the high Alps.
By all this meteorological mechanism the required atmos- phere of tension is established. We need not despise a col- laboration with the stage carpenters, for what else do we get in an elaborate production of Macbeth (thunder and lightning), or of Lear (thunder, rain, and wind) ? Timid playgoers may complain that so much aggressive weather gets on their nerves, as heavily as it does upon those of the creatures of the stage. It is meant to do so. It is an obvious means of associating us with them. It gives us, besides, the hint that their emotions will be as tumultuous as the accompanying elemental convul- sions.
But violent tempers, passionate temperaments, maniacal obsessions usually exhibit no transitions. The '' unvarnished" tropical background prompts the melodramatic method. It excludes delicate developments. Nerves give way suddenly. Steady citizens, we hear, have been known to revert to bar-
barous rites on islands like the Pago-Pago of Rain. Ancient mariners acquire a glittering glance on the lonely Pacific, as in Ordeal. Crash goes the thunder. Mad goes the mariner. It just happens like that—with a snap. And so it happened to the " Rev. Davidson," hero of Rain.
Surely he must, in a longish career of self-repression, which includes his own mariage blanc—he must surely have proved himself, before this, against the temptations incident to the redemption of lost women from lives like that led by his convert, Sadie Thompson, in Honolulu, in San Francisco, or wherever ? But the rain falls. The inn is narrow. His
nerves are at breaking point. Her sudden submission, her subservience to the will of this revivalist blackmailer, no doubt overwhelmed him at the critical moment. And you are indeed warned, by a subtle allusion to a landscape and its feminine significance for him, that he has had his Freudian visions. Nevertheless he appears to yield rapidly. Rapidly he kills himself next day. And, as rapidly, converted Sadie reverts to her former gay self. This is the tropical rhythm. . . .
Mr. Malcolm Keen has been slightly reproached for making his " Rev. Davidson " too reasonable, too little of the visionary. The text, I think, authorizes him to spare us the conventicle whine. But perhaps his scenes with Sadie might have been made more intolerable—or more delightful, as you like to view it—had his face shown us the light of the fanatic. But, again, in that case his fall would have been less explicable.
The part of Sadie Thompson was much advertised in advance as beyond the reach of available English actresses. This is nonsense. It is a perfectly straight " part which includes familiar extremes of emotion. Conviction and strength will carry it. Miss Olga Liiido, whom we recently saw in Tarnish, has hardly to vary her method to make an obvious success in Rain. Her light lady has merely descended a step of the slip- pery ladder. A much more difficult task was Miss Marda Vanne's, as the missionary's repressed, adoring wife. It is an admirable performance which allows us to divine stifled feelings, driven down, then welling up, without any outlet in loud speech. And it would be unjust to leave this crude, but vigorous, Rain without a word for Miss Barbara Gott's picture of the innkeeper's native wife—a portly swaying figure of the peasant type, physically fitted to recline at ease, yet terrorized by the brainstorms about her to an amazed activity. Inborn placidity and forced consternation are wonderfully united in this beautiful little study of a subordinate to the