A Period Theatre Review presented by www.stagebeauty.net
STORY OF THE PLAY
You have to change at East Wobsley to get to Ippleton, because Ippleton is on a branch line, a fact which, like the Ippleton train, "goes a long way" to explain why Mr. Freddy Popple, of Ippleton, wears clothes which suggest the stubble, prefers the country side to town life, and thinks more about rabbits than anything else.
It is not, therefore, difficult to realise the picture when this unsophisticated, easy-going and sunburnt rustic, accompanied by his equally countrified man, Platt, blunders into the up-to-date foyer of a Piccadilly Hotel, and being told by the proprietor that there is not a vacant bed, is offered by La Bolero, a fascinating actress, the temporary use of her own unoccupied flat in Fount Street.
Let it be said at once that this amiable and good-hearted actress, who has a suite at the Hotel, has never occupied the flat. As a matter of fact, it is kept going for her by a couple of elderly admirers. These two - one is a Brixton furniture dealer, and the other a wine merchant of Hampstead - are inseparable friends, but conceal from one another their affection for La Bolero and the fact that each pays her the full rent of the flat.
Of course, these old married men, who ought to know better, make the most extraordinary efforts to see the actress; behaviour which causes them to be assiduously watched by their suspicious wives. I must tell you that Freddy's brother, Norman, has recently thrown over La Bolero for another, and that when Freddy suddenly makes his appearance at the hotel, the actress instantly resolves to make love to him in order to punish Norman.
And now we will skip a night, or what is left of it, and hie us to the flat in Fount Street. Freddy, who has overslept himself is in for a really busy afternoon. First of all the two suspicious wives, referred to above, disgusted at their peccant husbands, call to see the flat, which is to let, with a view to taking it themselves. Then La Bolero herself arrives, followed in turn by the aforesaid amorous husbands; and finally the flat is filled to overflowing with a merry contingent of actresses, and their friends, invited by La Bolero to tea.
By this time the company is, to say the least, not a well-mixed one, and La Bolero, in her well meant endeavour to get herself and others out of a scrape, makes the unexpected declaration that Freddy Popple is her husband. Freddy, of course, has not been consulted in the matter, nor does he, seemingly, care whether she marries him or not. But, perhaps fortunately for him, the actress makes up her mind that Freddy is not really the man she wants, for she finally bestows her affections on another suitor. Thus the two erring husbands are left to make their peace with their wives, and Mr. Popple returns to Ippleton, via a branch line.
As may be imagined, the burden of this Comedy, with music, falls mainly upon the shoulders of Miss Ethel Irving, who plays La Bolero after her own inimitably clever fashion, and Mr. G. P. Huntley, whose portrait of Freddy Popple is exceedingly clever and characteristic. It is a typical Huntley part, and you may be sure that in his own droll way Mr. Huntley makes the most of it.
The play is luxuriously staged, and if the music is not so plentiful as we have been accustomed to expect in this class of entertainment, it is, at any rate, little and good, or in other words both tuneful and exhilarating; and there are some really clever songs. Mr. Paul Rubens, the author and composer, and all concerned are to be congratulated.
A CHAT ABOUT THE DRESSES
Anyone in doubt as to the charms of the Princess gown should, to quote the newspaper advertisement, "drop in at the popular playhouse Apollo" and study the details of Miss Ethel Irving's first costume. Of framboise velvet is it built, the bodice arranged cross-over fashion and edged with gold bullion fringe and carbochon turquoises effectively introduced here and there. At the hem of the skirt comes a daring band of orange-coloured silk, surrounded by a band of gold gimp. Over this gown she wears a quaint little cape with long stole ends made of a gold trelliswork, studded with turquoises, while strings of turquoise beads are wound round her hair.
A very fascinating tea-gown is Miss Irving's second venture. Made of pale blue silk, it displays a front of white mousseline de soie edged with a flounce at the foot. The gown itself is bordered and edged by a band of blue silk and silver embroidery, queer little pendant ornaments of blue and silver also exerting their decorative influence, while a silver cord encircles the waist. The sleeves are distinctly fascinating, being of the "Angel" geure, the inner sleeve consisting of a succession of white lace flounces.
On her arrival at the flat, Miss Irving covers her gown with a long loose coat of white cashmere lined with pale blue silk and ornamented with gold tassels. Miss Marie Illington displays a very pretty taste in frocks, her first being a beautiful evening gown of lettuce green satin, the skirt almost entirely veiled by a rich cream lace drapery which parts in front to display a panel of the green satin. The hem of the skirt is ornamented by a green ruching and cream lace applique, similar applications adorning the bodice.
A very smart frock of soft brown cloth is worn in the second act. The bodice displays a vest of cream lace with touches of orange velvet, and is completed by a pointed brown velvet waistband. At the hem of the skirt comes a band of cream lace, edged with orange velvet, and the hat which crowns the whole is of cream straw with a cache peigne of wallflowers and an aggressive white osprey arranged at one side.
Miss Olive Hood's first costume is of palest blue chiffon over silk to match, rows of inch wide moire ribbon edging the skirt; over this is worn a three-quarter coat of cream lace, adorned round the neck with blue moire ribbon embroidery, in a design of true lovers' knots, similar but narrower embroidery, decorating the lace flounce which edges the coat.
Quite charming, too, is Miss Grace Dudley's first dress of palest blue chiffon over pink satin, both bodice and skirt being adorned with rows of tiny rose rosettes shading to deep blue. The frock is made Princess fashion, and the sleeves are formed of tiny frills of white tulle edged alternately with pink and blue bebe ribbon.
Pale pink eolienne forms Miss Dudley's second frock. The skirt bears a great deal of cream Irish lace, similar lace forming the pointed vest on the bodice which is edged with three narrow pink frills completed by a pink bow, a smart pink hat with plumes to match, completing the costume.
In the last Act we find everybody attending a Motor Carnival, of the Magpie Club, and they arrive singly and in sets, all muffled in huge white motor coats made from blankets. The designs vary a little, but large gold buttons and huge turn-back cuffs are the chief adornments. All the ladies appear in black and white costumes of a particularly delightful character.
Miss Ethel Irving has her gown made Spanish fashion. White radium silk forms the groundwork, a small pointed vest thickly studded with diamonds and pearls appears at both back and front of the bodice, the short skirt being edged with a mass of deep net flounces, the uppermost being exquisitely embroidered in opaline sequins and silver thread. A white silk embroidered shawl with a deep fringe is draped around the figure and held at the back by a large oval paste buckle.
Seekers after an effective fancy dress would do well to copy those of the "Scarlet Runners." Built of bright red Indian silk, the skirts display deep flounces of red spotted net arranged one above the other over a flounce of silk, above this flounce come four bands of red ribbon velvet which are caught at the back of the skirt by velvet floral rosettes. The low bodice displays a pointed vest of red net adorned with rosettes, and the whole crowned by the smart red hats, forms an exceedingly attractive tout ensemble.
The personality of Mr. Popple is by no means the only remarkable thing about the successful musical comedy of that name. The era of the theatrical costumier for modern masculine dress is past, and the artistic creations of a first-rate West End firm are now de rigueur. In deference to this feeling the aid of Messrs. Stovel & Mason was enlisted, and the consequent dressing of the gentlemen reflects credit upon both entrepreneur and tailor.
Mr. Kenneth Douglas's morning-coat suit has much to commend it, the material being a smart brown fancy cashmere. The coat has a heavy rolling lapel and one button at the waist, displaying a very smart single-breasted vest with long points and edged with a silk cord, the whole producing an excellent effect.
Mr. J. Edward Fraser first appears in a double-breasted blue jacket with trousers to match, the former displaying gauntlet cuffs turning back over three buttons, the uppermost of which only is visible above the cuff. With this is worn a single-breasted waistcoat made of cream fancy material. Very excellent, too, is his frock coat of rough fancy cloth in a dark shade of grey, bound all round and displaying silk lapels, a black velvet collar and gauntlet cuffs bound at the edges. With this he wears striped trousers and a doublebreasted waistcoat of bluish-grey.
Mr. Eden's grey morning coat represents one of the latest modes. It fastens with one button over a single-breasted waistcoat in blue-and-white fancy material. No less than five buttons decorate the cuffs, and his grey hat displays a black band. A rough dark grey cloth makes Mr. Cheeseman's morning coat, which boasts big lapels and patch pockets, a broad black braid edging the coat all round. Five buttons decorate the braided cuffs, while the double breasted waistcoat of grey fancy material is fastened by white pearl buttons, a pair of trousers with wide stripes completing the costume. Decidedly startling is Mr. Cheeseman's overcoat, built of black, white and red check, with its collar and cuffs of grey velvet, straight pockets and grey bone buttons.
A very smart costume is worn by Mr. Lang - a beige-coloured frock coat and trousers, with a high hat to match bearing a broad black band. Mr. Romer has a similar suit in brownish grey cloth with grey silk facings. On the principle of leaving the best to the last I will now describe the charms of the evening dress suits, upon which Messrs. Stovel and Mason are to be congratulated. Velvet lapels and cuffs decorate that worn by Mr. Kenneth Douglas, the buttons being also in this material. The trousers are rather "peg-top" in shape, and his white pique waistcoat is adorned by three buttons on either side.
Mr. J. Edward Fraser has a satin roll collar and satin-bound gauntlet cuffs on his evening suit, and a strip of raised fancy braid on his trousers, while his waistcoat is of cream-striped fancy cloth fastening with four buttons. Silk facings mark the suit worn by Mr. Eden, the cuffs being ornamented by three buttons, and his square-cut cream waistcoat is fastened by three pearl buttons with a turquoise in each, a stripe of satin appearing on the trouser legs. Over this is worn a single-breasted overcoat with silk facings and plush cuffs.
A very ornate set of three enamel buttons adorns Mr. Cheeseman's evening waistcoat, which is single-breasted and made of white fancy material. Silk facings decorate his coat and five buttons the cuffs, while a black braid 1-1/2 inches wide appears on the trouser legs.
Of the rest some wear buttoned cuffs and some gauntlet cuffs bound with satin, while all the dress coats display facings of soft Surah silk. Small wonder, indeed, that the men want their costumes described; but it is only the thin end of the wedge, and I trust but the beginning of even greater things.
EDITH WALDEMAR LEVERTON.
PEOPLE IN THE PLAY
"Plenty of amusing things happen to me," explained MISS ETHEL IRVING, during one of the brief intervals at the Apollo the other evening, "but, somehow, I seem to carefully forget them. Many people can turn their brains into a sort of storehouse, and keep it in such good order that they are able to produce a story or a reminiscence at the shortest possible notice. "I do remember, however, that during the recent tour with Lucky Miss Dean I was taking a walk alone one afternoon in a country road. I love looking at trees and sky, and the day being warm I sat down on a flat stone by the roadside and watched the shifting shadows and the beautiful colouring. Presently a man and a woman came along, carrying a basket between them, and, after the manner of their kind, they both spoke pleasantly to me, putting their burden down in order to rest. They told me they had eggs and chickens in their basket, and they turned aside the clean white cloth in order to show me the produce with some pride. I said I thought that one of those fat chickens would make a very excellent dinner for someone, and the woman at once suggested the advisability of my buying one. I explained that I was stopping at a hotel. "'That's a pity,' said the man, 'I don't hold with young women stopping at hotels, but I suppose you can't help it,' I said that I couldn't, but that when I was at home I also lived in the country and was very proud of my chickens and my eggs. This interested the couple deeply, and it came about that we three began to walk towards the town together. As we came near I pointed to the theatre, which could be seen in the distance, 'That's where I am playing this week,' I said, 'Are you a play actress?' they both asked almost solemnly. I confessed my fault timorously, 'If we go to that theayter to-night, will we see you right out on the stage?' I said they would, and proceeded to give them a pass, and perfectly enchanted they went off proudly. "That night a mysterious parcel arrived at the stage door. It contained a roasted chicken, and upon its plump breast was pinned a rough note from my two roadside friends, to the effect that fearing I didn't get enough to eat at 'yon hotel,' they had had one of their chickens cooked at the baker's, and hoped I would eat it with a good appetite for my supper. I did, for it was the best chicken that I had ever tasted!"
The American Red Indian attracts MR. G. P. HUNTLEY'S special admiration among the races of mankind. He has a collection of Indian relics, gathered during his tours in America, that it is his fond ambition to turn to account one day upon the stage. The famous comedian, who, as Freddy Popple, has so much to say in favour of "rabbits," was with Mr. and Mrs. Kendal's company in the States a few years ago, and whenever they came within short travelling distance of an Indian Reservation in the Western States, Mr. Huntley would spend his spare time studying the habits (I almost said "rabbits") and manners of the Red Man. He was nicknamed "Indian Chief" by his comrades, and his imperturbability of manner certainly had its foundation in the earnest contemplation of the Indian brave. In his own home Mr. Huntley has a collection of sketches made by himself in America in which most of his models were Indians, and which display an astonishing breadth of touch and spirited drawing. Mr. Huntley accounts for his fondness for Indians by the fact that as a small boy he studied the works of Fenimore Cooper, and used to act dramas of his own composition in which he played the hero and heroine and the whole army of braves. It seems curious that with such warlike ideas on the subject of dramatic literature, he should have owed his great successes to his imperturbable manner of depicting types of modern Englishmen. Possibly his ingenious mind, however, has established some sympathetic relationship between the English "Johnnie" and the Indian brave. Whether Freddy Popple can also owe his invention to Mr. Huntley's heroes of the Western plains is a question that only he can decide!
Someday, perhaps, MISS MARIE ILLINGTON will write a book. She certainly should do so, for her wealth of experiences and her ability in telling about them are certainly unique. Miss Illington can tell a story in private life just as brilliantly as she acts a part upon the stage. Here is one of her early experiences, when as a young girl she was playing in the late Mrs. Nye Chart's stock company at Brighton. That famous old actress and manageress had a great desire to see Miss Illington in the name part of a melodrama called Jessie Vere, that had been her favourite part when she was young. The heroine of this drama had the usual full cup of sorrows, and "the villain pursued her" according to the good old fashion. In the dead of night Jessie tried to escape with her infant child, who was, Miss Illington explains, "quite six or seven years of age and terribly dirty. I also had to draw a pistol and defy the perjured scoundrel who was persecuting me. When the time came for me to perform these doughty deeds and I had raised this lumpy and unpleasant child in my arms, I discovered that my pistol, which should have been stuck in my belt, was absent. Clasping the child to my breast, and delivering various grandiose sentiments, I managed to get near enough to the wings to hoarsely whisper 'the pistol, where is it?' - and then return to my part. The pistol was thrown at my feet by an astute stage manager and, just at the proper moment, I cried to the villain, 'Advance a step further at your peril! See, a messenger from Heaven has sent this to me' and I lifted the pistol triumphantly and levelled it at him." "But this was not all that Jessie had to suffer that night," continued Miss Illington. When the moment came that I should wave my marriage lines in the face of my detractors, behold, I had not got them, and only my woman's wit came to my rescue. 'I am innocent,' I cried, 'I am honourably married to the man I love - my marriage lines I cannot show you, but you must believe the word of an honest woman!' And so the play ended! I asked Mrs. Nye Chart afterwards how she thought it had gone. The poor old lady sighed. 'It was awful, my child, awful!'"
"I have never been late for a cue," said MISS CORALIE BLYTHE, as she arranged the masses of beautiful fair hair that she "lets down" so effectively during her dance in Mr. Popple, "I have never had any adventures, I have never forgotten my part, and things have always gone just as they should; so you see there really is nothing for me to talk about," and Miss Blythe gazed meditatively into her own blue eyes as they gazed back at her in the mirror. "Things usually happen to most people, and if I had a fine imagination I would tell you that I had fallen from a flying machine and been caught on one of the arms of the golden cross of St. Paul's Cathedral, and had then been rescued by an adventurous youth who crawled over the dome and carried me down in his arms. It would make a good story, but people wouldn't believe it, and would say rude things about my imagination. One day I will try and manufacture some real good anecdotes - oh, I mean quite nice ones and then I will get them printed, and everybody will say, 'Dear me, what an interesting life she must lead!'"
"I shall never forget my first appearance upon the stage," said MISS GRACE DUDLEY, who plays the lachrymose Mrs, Doring so prettily in Mr. Popple, "I was chosen to play the Fairy Goldenhair in a Christmas entertainment arranged at the school I attended in my juvenile days. My great ambition at that time was to 'dress up' and pretend to be somebody else, and now that I had a real part to study my anxiety during the preparation of my costume was immense. I insisted upon my mother hiring a wig for me, and on the night in question I put it on and allowed the magnificellt golden hair of which it was constructed to sweep over my tulle petticoats that were spangled with silver. I was in a mad state of excitement. Things kept hopping about in front of my eyes, and my head felt as if it was going to burst, but I had been told about stage fright, and thought that this was one of its symptoms. When the time came for my appearance upon the stage I ran on gaily enough, waving my wand and singing, 'I am the Fairy Goldenhair, flitting here and flitting there' - when suddenly everything spun round and in the distance my mother's form rising like a giantess moved towards me. Then I sat down and was ignominiously dragged off the stage. It seems that I had been sickening for measles which had developed during my wait in the wings for my first entrance, and when I appeared in my golden wig and fairy costume, my face, neck, and arms had suddenly become covered with red spots, and the Fairy Goldenhair had to retire from business for that night anyhow."
During a lengthy and varied experience MR. LIONEL VICTOR has encountered some "incidents" not always amusing at the time, but which are entertaining in the telling. "In a theatre in Liverpool," he says, "I once had to slide down a rope from the flies and rescue the heroine who was struggling below. It was described as a thrilling situation, but one night the rope broke and dropped me about 14 feet on to the stage in a heap. The curtain descended, and the stage manager, who had not seen the accident, rushed forth and yelled 'you have come down too soon,' I thought so too! "In another town, a young gentleman, who was to make his first appearance on the stage with us, was cast for the servant (a very important part) in a well-known farce. His mother stood encouragingly in one of the wings, and I was on the stage when he strutted on, and to everyone's surprise, spoke the whole of his part right through without waiting for anything or anybody. His mother added to the general laughter by screaming, 'Oh! Heavens, he has said it all!' "I don't think nature meant him to be an actor for a few weeks later he forgot everything in a scene I had with him. I tried hard to get a word out of him without success, so coming to the end of the scene I said, 'Stand back, or I'll put a bullet through you!' The stage manager, in a voice that could be heard all over the theatre, exclaimed, 'It's time somebody did.'"
I fancy MR. W. CHEESMAN is well known to playgoers every where, in spite of his continual alteration of feature which may sometimes help to prevent recognition. Perhaps the following was the greatest compliment he ever received for his "makeup." Says Mr.Cheesman, "In Alice in Wonderland I had to make up as, 'Tweedledum' to exactly resemble 'Tweedledee,' and was so successful that an individual who had borrowed five shillings from the impersonator of 'Tweedledee,' paid me on the following night."
"You were saying you have been on the stage over twelve years," I said, addressing MR. HAROLD EDEN (the wine merchant in Mr. Popple). "Yes," he answered, "if you deduct eighteen months which I spent in the Boer War - and that reminds me - Have you ever been chased by a shark?, "No," I replied very emphatically. "I was bathing," he went on, "from a boat, and had just dived into the water when I caught sight of a shark just above me. I tried to escape the danger by swimming under water; I was paralyzed with fear, and wondered what part of my anatomy would receive his first attention or whether I should be taken like a pill. When I finally scrambled into the boat I discovered my 'shark' performing the extraordinary evolutions of a porpoise. In fact, that is really what he was - a nice healthy specimen of a porpoise.
SCENES FROM THE PLAY