A Period Theatre Review presented by www.stagebeauty.net
STORY OF THE PLAY
A piece which deals with such old-fashioned and familiar friends as the Demon King, the Fairy Queen, and members of the Harlequinade, had better be described in the old-fashioned way; wherefore, let me state that once on a time there was a certain Demon called Alcohol, who stood in admiring and somewhat friendly rivalry with the Fairy Rosebud.
It was the duty of the twain, as is the way each Christmas with such folk, to seek out deserving heroes and heroines, and while Alcohol did his best to separate them and render their lives a burden in every way that suggested itself to him, Rosebud conceived it her duty to go about doing what she considered good, and performing various little acts which she fancied would be for the benefit of such as commanded her sympathies.
It is after the regulation pantomime opening scene, wherein these amiable plotters inform us, and each other, of their intentions, that we come to the Vicarage of St. Parabola, the abode of the Rev. Aloysius Parfitt, M.A., Vicar of Parabola. It then transpires that he and his friend, Colonel Sir Trevor Mauleverer, of the Household Cavalry, are respectively in love with, and about to wed, Lady Angela Wealdstone, daughter of the Earl of Harrow, and Clarissa, the only child of Mr. justice Whortle, a remarkable old judge with an odd sense of misplaced humour, and all the belief in his own infallibility that so frequently attaches itself to the Bench out of Plays - as well as in them.
Herein then are subjects for the good Fairy and bad Demon. She will aid the course of true love to run smoothly. He, on the other hand, will do his little best to upset things generally and breed discord. And all would have been well if the good Fairy had been supernaturally clever and known everything. But she wasn’t; and she didn’t. She was quite human in her failings, and the errors she tumbled into one after another were quite remarkable, and by her well-meant interference she brought about a series of exceedingly amusing minor disasters. Finally, when she had tangled the characters up in what looked like inextricable confusion, it occurred to her to get out of all difficulty by transporting the lot of them to "The Revolving Realms of Radiant Rehabilitation? And this she did; and thus, as in the pantomime transformation-scene, Colonel Mauleverer became Clown; Mr. justice Whortle Pantaloon; the Rev. Aloysius, to his immense surprise, Harlequin; and Lady Angela, Columbine.
Under the spell of the amiable interfering Fairy, the regulation thefts, assaults, and various lesser crimes of harlequinade are gone through. But there comes a brief space when the wills of the various characters return to their legal owners, and realizing that the course they have been pursuing is scarcely that usually followed by a Lady of Title, a Colonel of the Guards, a judge, and a Clergyman, they return crest-fallen and very much ashamed of themselves to the Vicarage. And here it is that the Fairy, finding that she has with the best intentions in the world, been sadly muddling things, apologises and puts everything right again.
It will be seen that the idea of the play is one of remarkable novelty and whimsicality. Probably no one except Mr. W.S. Gilbert could have handled such a theme and make the impossible seem almost possible, and, indeed, in a sort of mad way, well nigh probable. It is not, however, the part of the PLAY-PICTORIAL to attempt to criticise either the play or the players, but merely to give an outline of the piece, so that the reader who may not have seen the production for him or herself may be able to follow our pictures and realize their true significance.
F. M. B.
PEOPLE IN THE PLAY
Mr. Arthur Bourchier, the Colonel Sir Trevor Mauleverer of The Fairy's Dilemma, is the only son of Captain Charles Bourchier, late of the 8th Hussars, and received his education first at Eton and then at Christchurch, Oxford, where he took his degree. With the permission and cooperation of the late Professor Jowett - at the time Vice-Chancellor - he founded the Oxford University Dramatic Society, and had much to do with the creation of the Theatre, in which he acquitted himself with valour and applause in such ambitious parts as Shylock, Falstaff, Brutus, and Hotspur, to name only a few of them. He was also a prominent member of The Old Stagers and the Windsor Strollers, and in course of time the inborn fascination which the Stage had always possessed for him bore fruit, and he made his first appearance as a professional actor as Jaques in As You Like It, as a member of Mrs. Langtry’s Company at Wolverhampton in 1889. When Mrs. Langtry arrived at the St. ]ames’s Theatre Mr. Bourchier came too, and repeated his success as The Melancholy One. Afterwards he joined the then Mr. Charles Wyndham, at the Criterion, and subsequently became Mr. Augustin Daly’s leading man. Among other things worthy of note which Mr. Bourchier accomplished, was that of producing a very successful play at the Royalty Theatre, for The Chili Widow had a long run at the Dean Street playhouse. In addition to being a very sound and remarkably versatile actor Mr. Bourchier is an excellent cricketer, and is a member of Lords and the I. Zingari.
Miss Violet Vanbrugh is, as every one knows, Mrs. Arthur Bourchier in private life, and is the eldest daughter of the late Rev. R. A. Barnes, a Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. Like many another well-known actress of to-day, Miss Vanbrugh learned the rudiments of her art in Miss Sarah Thorne’s Dramatic School at Margate, afterwards coming to London under the management of Mr. L. Toole, at the theatre named after him, which used to exist in King William Street, Strand. There Miss Vanbrugh played a number of parts, afterwards joining Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, with whom she journeyed to America, and on her return was engaged by the then Mr. Henry Irving to play Anne Boleyne in Henryy VIII at the Lyceum Theatre. Then came an engagement with Mr. Daly to play Olivia in Twelfth Night. Since her husband secured the lease of the Garrick Theatre she has played the principal lady’s parts in his various productions with unvarying success.
Mr. Sydney Valentine first attracted favourable notice when he came to London as a member of Mr. Edward Compton’s famous Comedy Company, and it was his remarkable performance of Tony Lumpkin at the Strand Theatre which marked him out as an actor of much more than ordinary quality. It was almost immediately after this very successful performance that Mr. Valentine caught his serious illness, which kept him off the stage for a lengthy period. However, on his return to work, he was at once snapped up by various leading managers, and it is very seldom that you do not find his name figuring on at least one London programme. At the time of writing it appears on two; for in addition to his part in The Fairy's Dilemma at the Garrick he is appearing each night in the first piece at the Haymarket, The Widow Woos, of which he is in addition, part author.
Miss Jessie Bateman, who plays the Fairy Rosebud of the good intentions, came into the public eye during her engagement a few years ago as Mr. Charles Hawtrey’s leading lady, and her performances in A Message from Mars, The Man from Blankley's, and other productions, at once marked her as a young lady of more than ordinary ability. Miss Bateman, who is Mrs. Hippsley in private life, lost her husband in the African War, and he, poor fellow, before taking to soldiering, had been a member of the famous Benson Company.
It was from that same famous stage nursery that Mr. O. B. Clarence came, and before coming to London he played several lengthy engagements with Mr. Benson. Prior to joining forces with Mr. Bourchier, Mr. Clarence was seen for a time in Mr. Graves’s part in The School Girl, at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre.
Mr. Jerrold Robertshaw has been quite a long time with Mr. Bourchier at the Garrick, and perhaps the performance which first forced him into special attention was his admirable Pilkerton in Pilkerton's Peerage. Mr. Robertshaw, who is a North Countryman, is an actor of all-round experience - and lots of it.
SCENES FROM THE PLAY