3 NOVEMBER 1928, Page 36


THERE is but little now-a-nights to reward a constant visitor of the theatre. Novelty, perhaps, in this old world, is what we have no

title to expect ; but even the once noted and familiar characters of the drama are absentees from the stage; and every 'attempt to bring them back and restore them to their proper sphere is, in nine cases out of ten, worse than futile. And yet something is to be expected from Miss F. H. Kelly : at any rate, if. promise dawns not there, then is the theatrical horizon without a twinkle of rising talent.

Surely study, if animated' by a hearty love of her vocation, may improve this amiable lady into a pleasing actress. Though not handsome, her person is agreeable. The expression of her face pre- possesses you in her favour. She is rathergraceful in her motions, and lady-tike in demeanour. Her voice is pleasant to the ear— sometimes, like the glance of her eye, even captivating. She has a feeling for the tender, and a power of expressing the enthusiasm of love. Her mirth; though not infectious, rather exhilarates ; her smile is sunny; her manners are elegant at least, if not fashion- able or brilliant ; and her countenance is capable of an expression, in which a little archness blends with tenderness and good-nature. There is one note she strikes invariably with truth and effect—that ,of gentle remonstrance—of affectionate upbraiding; whose sweet- ness converts even reproach into a sound of gladness welcome to a lover's ear. " Parle, parle, encore!" he might exclaim like poor !Valerie, "jai besoin de t'entendre." But Miss Kelly must set herself to form a just and rigorous estimate of her own strength ; and like singers of inadequate organs, learn to husband her powers and use them to the most advantage. For the exhibition of characters of high ton and brilliant intrepidity, she wants ease, assurance, spright- liness, vigour, and spirits. She will never astonish, dazzle, or be- witch ; but she may warm the heart with a softer flame, and conci- liate by the expression of purity and tenderness.

There are two characters, drawn by two experienced hands, of two stage heroines, one ancient, the other modern, to which the at- tention of Miss Kelly is solicited ; as offering, the first, a species of excellence which, by cultivating her genius and exercising her judgment, she may hope to approach ; the latter presenting an eminence high above her reach, towards which she will not suc- ceed in making a single step.

" When I carry," says Mr. Boaden of Miss Farren, afterwards Coun- tess of Derby, ray recollection back to the peculiar character of her acting, I think I may say that it was distinguished by the grace of deli- cacy, beyond that of every comic actress I have seen. It was the soul of all she did ; and even in the comedies of Congreve she never lost it for a moment, amid the free allusions and sometimes licentious expressions of his dialogue. The eye sparkled with intelligence, but it was a chaste and purified beam, from a mind unsullied though sportive. Her levity was never wanton ; her mirth had no approach to rudeness... From her early habit of acting in tragedy, she had drawn enough to give to the occasional pathos of comedy a charm of infinite value. The reproach of her Julia, in the Rivals, to Falkland, was extremely affecting; and few scenes drew more tears than the sensibility she discovered in the return of Lady Townley to the use of her heart and her understanding."

Well said, Mr. Boaden I " Si sic mania" . . . he might have snapped his fingers at the critics ... " gladios contemnere potuit."

' Though I doubt," writes admirable Colley Cibber of Mrs. Mountfort, ns Melantha, in Marriage a-la-Mode, " it will be vain to offer you a just likeness of her action ; yet the fantastic impression is still so strong in any memory, that I cannot help saying something, though fantastically, about it. The first airs thattreak from her are upon .a gallant never seen before, who delivers her a letter from her father, recommending him to her good graces as an honourable lover. Here now one would think she might naturally show a little of the sex's decent reserve, though never so slightly covered. No, Sir; not a tittle of it: modesty is the virtue of a poor-souled country gentlewoman ; she is too much a court lady to he under so vulgar a confusion : she reads the letter therefore with a care- less, dropping lip, and erected brow, humming it hastily over as if she were impatient to outgo her father's commands by making a complete conquest of him at once ; and that the letter might not embarrass her attack, crack she crumbles it at once into her palm, and pours upon him her whole artillery of airs, eyes, and motion; down goes her dainty diving body to the ground-, as if she were sinking under the conscious load of her own attractions ; then launches into a flood of fine language and compliment, still playing her chest forward in fifty fall: and risings, like a wan upon waving water; and *to complete her impertinence, she is SO rapidly fond of her own wit that she will not give her lover leave to praise it ; silent assenting bows, and vain endeavours to speak, are all the shate of the conversation be is admitted to which at last he is re- lieved from, by her engagement to half a score visits, which she swims from him to make, with a promise to return in a twinkling."

Akin to the unrivalled talent of this actress, or rivalled only by the descriptive talent that enables us to see her at the distance of a century and a half, must be that of her who would shine in the ,Widow BelmOurs and IIippolitas, which Miss Kelly has unac- countably assumed, or allowed to be forced on her acceptance. Let her eschew their acquaintance forthwith. To make aught of them, they demand a gaiety and versatility she cannot command. Let her trust to her sensibility, and to the union of pathos and pleasantry of which she has given indications.

It may be, indeed, that the necessity or the. ambition of acting all sorts of parts is fraught with its advantages. "It prevents," RS Sir W. Scott remarks with some plausibility, "the ideas and exertions of a young performer from being too much narrowed by a single cast of characters ; and may operate in that respect like the care taken by professors of gymnastics to cause their pupils to bring into play, successively, the different sets of muscles, by exertions of a kind appropriate to each." But this discipline, if beneficial at any time, can be so only at a very early period of the profession, for the purpose _of trying, in which set or sets of ,Muscles, to prolong the metaphor, the actor's greatest forte lies;

that he may not expend his strength and spirits on such as are incapable of improvement, but confine himself to the exercise of those which will enable him to shine in particular feats of strength,' and to arrive at a higher though more confined excellence. Miss Kelly has no time to lose ; she has been long before the public ; and if she makes not haste to discover and manifest her forte, impatient people will begin to think it lies—nowhere. At all events, we would recommend her never again to travel the high heroic road of tragedy. " Cambyies vein" is not for her, and she may fall 'into a better. In attempting to be grand, she is only tumid ; and in the endeavour to represent uncontroflable emotions, her naturally pleasing countenance is distorted into something from which you turn away. She failed, we remember.' in all the horrific passages of Juliet, as signally as she succeeded in the loving and the gentle ; and the spectator could hardly credit his eyes, that she who now supposed herself " playing with her forefathers' joints," and "dashing out her desperate brains with a club"—the disgusting rant which Shakspeare has imposed on his 'Juliet—was the same person that a little before had charmed him into ecstacy by painting to the life the triumph of affection

over anger and of love over suspicion. jc In the .gentle Desdemona she might be seen with pleasure ; _although in Cordelia, the innocent and affectionate, who for an instant or two is seen in that troubled drama like a dove gleaming momentarily among thunder-clouds, it is true she gave little satis- faction. But the fault was Tate's, who has put rant and verbiage into Cordelia's mouth ; for which sacrilege, it is to be hoped, the audacious botcher is every instant pricked to death below with the pen with which the deformed Lear—"Demens ! qui nimbos et non imitabile fulmen....''