19 NOVEMBER 1921, Page 15



THE Phoenix Society have added another success to their long list, and have once more earned the thanks of all those who care for literature and the drama. The Duchess of Malfi proved a little disappointing when it was acted, and most of those who went to the Lyric did so with some doubt in their minds as to how The Maid's Tragedy—the other giant of the Elizabethan stage— would show in a theatre. I think that we were all surprised by the -majestic stature of the play. The construction proves to be equal to the diction, and the psychology and dramatic

interest are.perhaps superior-to all but about three other tragedies in the world. I freely confess that so great were the glamour and the magic which the play exerted that it requires an effort, even in retrospect, to try to analyse the elements out of which its effects were woven. The play seemed to alter a great deal in the acting. There was one thing in particular. Perhaps

something in Mr. Ion Swinley's acting brought it about ; at any rate, it emerged on the stage : that was the rehabilitation of Amintor's character. We were made to understand and to sympathize with his feeling of blind loyalty to the King. This loyalty is, of course, one of the chief ingredients in the psycho- logical situation, and it had always seemed to me alike irritating and incomprehensible. We somehow are brought to see how necessary is this loyalty, -since adherence to almost any King- i.e., any staple form of government—at the time The Maid's Tragedy was written was essential to the State. Amintor, far from -seeming a fawning courtier, appears as the exemplar of all good citizens. He will not let even the intolerable wrong which he has suffered move him into a public revenge. The King has sinned in his private

character as a man, not inhis public capacity as a King. Amintor, if he had struck, would therefore have been the avenger of a private quarrel at the expense of the body politic. But, indeed, Amintor's =character stands drawn for us with an unusual subtlety, and is finely shown in its contrast with the generous but much less sensitive Melantius. As for Evadne—a most con- vincing sister for Melantius, by the way—she is displayed to us with extraordinary power. Miss Sybil Thomdike, though her performance was very unequal, put Evadne before us exactly in that most cruel and soul-shaking scene on the marriage night.

Amintor : Or by those hairs, which if thou had'at a soul Like to thy locks, were threads for Kings To wear about their arms. . .

Evades : Why, so perhaps they are . . . Alas, Amintor, think'st thou I forbear To go with thee, because I have put on A maiden's strictness ? Look upon these cheeks And thou shalt find the hot and rising blood Unapt for such a vow This is not feigned Nor sounds it like the coyness of a bride.


Is flesh so earthly to endure all this'? Are these the joys of marriage'? Hymen keep This story, that will make succeeding youth Neglect thy ceremonies, from all ears . . .

Evadne is passionate and hard and cruel, and we realize her repentance and the form it takes; as feline and primitive. It is the result, not no _much of sorrow for her cruel blasphemy against love and her-hideous betrayal of Amintor's faith as of awakened pride and of growing passion for Amintor's person. We shrink, as does Amintor, when she comes, her hands still red with the hing's blood, to ask Amintor's love as the reward.of her smoking dagger.

I think that in reading the play we are inclined to imagine that there arain it two great moments—" strong scenes " in the modern jargon. But on the stage the interest is

7,anderfully kept up, and the scenes between Melantius and Evadne, in which he shames her into as much repentance as bas can know, and the dialogue -about friendship between Afelantius and Amintor proved nearly as effective. Indeed,

e Beene of the murder of the King was the only one with which

was disappointed. Somehow it was not given ita full weight, and I am inclined to think that this was Miss Thorndike's fault. She was at once not quite heavy enough and too

melodramatic. Here, alone, I think -her work showed the effects of continued work at Grand Guignol.

The acting, as usual in the Phoenix productions, reached an extraordinary high general level. Mr. Allan Wade, the pro- ducer, seems to wield some more than mortal power. For we are to remember that almost all the ladies and gentlemen who take part in these productions are actors and actresses in work, and that consequently they are only able to give the scantiest time for rehearsal. Yet the production and ensemble are far above the average of plays which are put on for a run. Mr. -George Sicilian as Melantius, Mr. Lathbury as Callianax, and Mr. Harvey Braban as the King all gave performances of outstanding merit, and Miss Isabel Jeans made Aspatia more than reasonably credible and sympathetic. The society has earned not only our thanks, but our support.

May I in this connexion add my voice to those which appealed last week for support for " The Old Vic.," now faced with the test of rebuilding Here is a case where those who believe in the civilizing influence of the stage can be sure that their money will be well employed. "The Old Vic." has a splendid record of productions behind it. Not only is its work always fresh and sincere, but almost alone of such enterprises it seems to attract the public for which its " missionary " work is intended. Contributions should be sent to the Secretary of "The Old Vic." Appeal Fund, Royal Victoria Hall, Waterloo Road, S.E. L Cheques should be made payable to Sir W. P. Hcrringhane (Chairman of the Governors).