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MUSINGS WITHOUT METHOD.

THE NEW STAGE MANAGEMENT-MR FROHMAN'S REPERTORY—
SERMON OR DRAMA?—THE PRISONS OF THE PHILANTHROPISTS
-THE VESTRYMAN OF THE THEATRE-MR BARRIE'S HUMOUR—
MR MEREDITH AND POETIC DICTION- CHANTECLER."

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THERE has been much talk of to its end. The foolish old late years concerning "nation- cry of "realism" is no longer al" and "repertory" theatres. heard upon the stage. Those The public intelligence is said who are responsible for the to be tired of the "girls' conduct of Mr Frohman's who come from Jerusalem or theatre are content to produce Madagascar to heighten the a dramatic illusion. They imbecility of our stage. Many make no attempt to confuse doctors have sat at the death- art and life. There is no solid bed of the drama, and have scenery; there is no hint of the contemplated its approaching archæology for its own sake, demise with their very best which hampered the stage of manner. One has recom- the old Lyceum. Everything mended course of public is plain yet adequate, and as subsidies; others have found we watch Mr Frohman's scene this remedy too severely dras- we cannot but confess that one tio; and it has been left for an problem of dramatic art is enterprising American to de- near its solution. And the cide that the English drama, actors are managed with the discredited and moribund, shall same adroitness as the stage. enjoy a renewal of life at his The anarchy encouraged by a expense. All honour is due long line of actor - managers to Mr Frohman for a spirited finds no favour at the Repertory experiment, which many have Theatre. It is not there a case discussed, and none other has of everybody for himself and dared to undertake. the devil take the hindmost. The players are not all fighting to be in the limelight, to call attention to their oddities or their excellences. They have a higher ambition than to grin through a horse-collar. From the first to the last they aim loyally and sincerely at the general effect. They are more like men pulling in a boat than like cricketers consulting their average to the ruin of their side. And they are actors. That is to say, they intend

Before we discuss the plays which he has "presented," a word must be said of his general policy. For the management of his stage, in the discipline of his actors, he is entitled to the very highest praise. Never in our time have plays been so efficiently, and withal so modestly, produced as at the Duke of York's Theatre. In every case the scenery has been simple of taste, and perfectly adapted

not to present themselves in other clothes, but to represent as faithfully as they can the characters allotted to them. Where all are so good, it may seem superfluous to particularise; yet we cannot forbear to dedicate one word of praise to Mr Dennis Eadie, whose observation and research are ready for any enterprise, and who has perfectly succeeded in the suppression of himself. Above all, he and his colleagues have learnt the art, to English men and women the most difficult, of standing still. They are not perpetually crossing the stage, running backward and forward, and clamouring that their presence must not be for a moment forgotten. So much Mr Frohman has achieved, of excellent augury for the future of the stage, and he has achieved it because his plays are produced by Messrs Dion Boucicault and Granville Barker, the one a first-rate work man, who knows the theatre like his pocket, the other a stage-manager of genius.

Thus it is that Mr Frohman has organised his theatre with admirable tact and skill. The scene is there; the players are there nothing else is needed

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beg of him to be done with the 'theatrical,' and to write only of a life that he really knows; let him treat it as, in his eyes, it is lived, and not as he thinks people want it on the stage. I advise him to learn the conventions of the stage, but chiefly that he may be able to disregard them. I have no preference for any particular kind of play; I want what is good of any kind. One sometimes hears it said, 'A good thing, but not & play.' This is one of the kinds I want." Though that is good sense as far as it goes, it is less liberal in intent than it seems. If Mr Frohman gives too much licence on the one side, he gives not enough liberty on the other.

If a dramatist is writing of modern life, it is well that he should write of the life that he has seen. It is idle to describe the life of courts from the security of a back parlour. On the other hand, "realism" is not the last word of art. Because a thing is or has happened, it is not necessarily the stuff of which drama is made. Fancy, imagination, a knowledge of the past, the intuition of genius, all these make better drama and better literature than the "life" that the young dramatist tist "really knows. That which is seen is not necessarily true; that which is unseen is not perforce "theatrical." And if Mr Frohman thus limits his enterprise, the repertory theatre will not last long. The truth is that the theatre,

like fiction, like the music Mr Frohman has carried out hall, like every other mani- his design. festation of profitable energy, is the victim of fashion. One fashion succeeds another with fatal rapidity. We have had the scène à faire, we have had "the slice of life," we have had the knockabout farce, intellectual and physical. But a play is not good because it subscribes to the oath of this or that fashion. It is good because it lifts itself above the prevailing fashion; and we would gladly welcome anything that is dramatic and amusing, even though it has never been "lived" at all.

Again, when Mr Frohman suggests that a young playwright should learn the conventions of the stage in order to disregard them, he errs, as it seems to us, on the side of licence. Every art is controlled by certain conventions, which are neglected at the artist's peril. The main interest in writing a book or in making a play lies in the harmony of self-expression and convention. Nobody breaks the laws of life and art save the madman, the anarch, and the man of genius. If Mr Frohman hopes to attract the man of genius, there is no more to be said. man of genius is a law unto himself, and may do what pleases him. But he is a shy bird, who does not easily come in to the fowler's net, and Mr Frohman's bold contempt of the rules of his oraft is more likely to catch the anarch and the madman. So much, then, for general principles. Now let us see how

The

The first play which he presented was Mr Galsworthy's "Justice," a work which, according to the old definition, would be called, we suppose, a slice of life.' Up to a certain point it is emphatically a play. There is none of the dramatic conventions which Mr Galsworthy has violated. He has translated his anecdote into the terms of the theatre with an evident skill. His men, save those who appear in prison, whether officials or prisoners, are men of blood and bone. Their characters are drawn on this side the limits of caricature. The scene in court is managed in a workmanlike fashion; and we are told by lawyers that none of the probabilities are outraged. But the spectacle is not invigorating. It is not to

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"Justice" that we should go for an evening's amusement. Not that that is in its disfavour. We would go far and sit late to experience the emotions of real tragedy. "Edipus the King, "Othello," even on a lower plane, "Ghosts" or "Thérèse Raquin," are touched with the elemental and inevitable. "Justice" begins and ends as a rather squalid anecdote. The characters, accurately as they are drawn, are of no particular interest. What they do and what they suffer cannot appal us. We are sure that Mr Galsworthy has devoted profound study to the processes of the law court. We are willing to believe that he has stayed in prison not quite long enough to overcome a prejudice

against necessary punishments. And when we have admitted so much, we cannot think that "Justice" justified itself.

The story is plain enough. Falder, a neurotic lawyer's clerk, turns a cheque of nine pounds into a cheque for ninety, that he may rescue Ruth Honeywill, the woman that he loves, from a husband's cruelty. His forgery is found out, and he is sent to prison. The hardship of solitary confinement destroys his nerves, and when he comes out he is prevented from taking the new start which his employers offer him, because he is again "wanted" by the police for forging a character and failing to report himself. Rather than face imprisonment again he jumps out of а window or over a staircase, and there's an end of him. The episode, or series of episodes, is painful enough, and gains little by presentation on the stage. Mr Galsworthy spares us nothing, and interprets his story with literalness and without pity. Why he selected this antithesis of the picturesque, this somewhat tiresome specimen of squalor, we know not. The one excuse that can be found for him is that he is preaching a sermon, and the prejudice, which peeps out now and again from the drab surface of the realism, convinces us that the preacher has throughout got the better of the dramatist.

We have heard not a little of Mr Galsworthy's impartiality. We have been told more than once that he is content to present his story in plain

terms and to leave the commentary to others. We cannot think that he exercised this rare restraint in the composition of "Justice." From beginning to end he seems intent upon a thesis, or upon two theses. He grinds his axes in the glaring brilliance of the footlights. He would have us believe that the punishment of the weak and neurotic is harsh and disproportionate. He would persuade us that prisons are places of wanton cruelty, and that solitary confinement is a barbarous monstrosity. His first thesis is altogether inapposite. It is true that the Falders of this world must always come off second best. It is sad and true also that they are not equipped for the contest of life. At the first contact with reality, in the shape of a Ruth Honeywill and temptation, they inevitably succumb. But that does not mean that their punishment is unmerited or unnecessary. The law, framed to protect society, a phrase which is neither cynical nor senseless, as the weak are the greater part of society,-can take but an imperfect cognisance of the individual. And when the individual suffers, justly and rightly, it is the individual who wins the sympathy and not those whom he wrongs, because the individual alone of all those in court is allotted his proper share of punishment. It is easy enough to evoke a kindly sentiment for the man in the dock. The judge, the impersonal embodiment of justice, does not touch the heart

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of the thoughtless more readily than the blue uniform of the

policeman. Crime, indeed, may be a disease, but it is a disease which the judges are sent to cure, as was wittily said many years ago, and there's an end of it.

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But it is when Mr Galsworthy takes us into the prison that he most clearly proves his prejudice. Here there is no doubt about the sermon which he means to preach and preaches. The officials -the governor, the chaplain, and the doctor-come very badly out of a trying ordeal. Mr Galsworthy does not approve of prisons, above all he does not approve of solitary confinement. One scene, in truth, is but а tract in pantomime against this dehumanising practice. We agree with whatever Mr Galsworthy tells us and shows us concerning the silent system. But a play is not the best medium for disquisitions of that kind, and the scene in which Falder dashes himself against the door of his cell has no dramatic excuse whatever. It is merely thrown in to point a moral and to harrow our feelings without any moral warrant, and in plain defiance of every artistic law that ever was formulated. The Greeks banished behind their scene whatever was too painful to be witnessed, and it is a pity that Mr Galsworthy did not employ a like reticence. As to his sermon, we do not suppose that he is opposed to every form of incarceration. As we have said, he finds the most grievous fault with

solitary confinement. Here he has all the authorities on his

con

side. Even Sir Robert Anderson, who may not be suspected of sentimentality, has demned unsparingly the foolish practice of preventing prisoners from looking out of their windows upon the world outside. But the people whom Mr Galsworthy should attack are not the officials sent to administer the law, but the misguided philanthropists who bit by bit have turned our prisons into hygienic, spotless homes of inhumanity. Once upon a time the jails of England were unwholesome, grim, sociable, and not wholly unpleasant places. There was a sort of life within their walls which, rough and brutal as it was, was life. The prisoners might converse with one another, to their improvement or corruption, as the case might be; they might solace their weary days with such small luxuries as a little money might bring. Even if they died of jail-fever, they took their risk like other men. And then philanthropy stepped in, and compelled them to be healthy, clean, and wretched. But, after all, prisons were not designed for comfort or pleasure. It is the law of life that crime should be punished, and we confess that a great deal of Mr Galsworthy's harrowing description seemed inapposite. It is a law of the drama that the dramatist should not preach too loudly or too obviously, and though "Justice" may long retain a place in Mr Frohman's repertory, we trust that we

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