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A Remarkable Drama., Evening Post, Volume LVII, Issue 136, 10 June 1899, Supplement
A Remarkable Drama.
Intellectually Mr. Pinero stands alone among our dramatists, and he has written nothing cleverer than "The Gay Lord Quex." But whether the roar of approval which greeted his appearance bioro the curtain on Saturday night (writes) The Times of 14th April) may be takon as promising a popular success is doubtful. The mass of playgoers are sentimentalists, and this play appeals entirely to tl»o head. There is not a tear — not even a moist eye — in any of its four acts. It is fresh? amusing, interesting; but it suggests bitter, not pleasant reflections. It is written for those who have outlived their illusions by a man who looks, clear-oyed, upon a -world of which he has not much opinion. That school of ci-itics which swears by the modern French play— not the old type of suggestive farce, but the work of serious writers like M. Lemaitre and M. Lavedan —can hail Mr. Pmero' as a convert to their view. "Tho Gay Cord Quex" in many ways suggests the French drama, and it was now and then difficult on Saturday evening — especinlly in tho " bedroom scene " — v<A to imagine oneself on tho Boulevards instead of in the Strand. Tho lover of 48, the colourless ingenue, her young admiror vfrho turns out to be altogether unworthy, the types of society who Hit through the piece — they all soom to belong more to Paris than to London. If tho piece moves the ordinury theatre-goer as it moved the Ui'st night audience, it will show that a change has come over the public taste. Lord Quex is v. type of the " man with a post," just as Airs. Tnuqucray was Mr. Pine-ro's idea of tho " woman with a post." The woman finds her past tied round her neck like a millstone dragging her downwards all hnr life. The man (so Mr. Pinero will have it) can with a little trouble shnke off his piv>t liko an old garment and scarcely retain even tho memory of its burden. Lord Quex is 48, with tho reputation of having been very gay indeed. But at 48 he falls in love with the " typical creamy English girl." Ho is so genuinely in love that for her sake he htu» becomo a reformed character. So ho says himself at the beginning of the play. So wo believe at tho end, when ho has fairly proved it. It is, in fact, tho testing of Lord Quex's good resolutions that makes the play. There is a long list of characters, but the action of the piece is really left to no more than two — to Mr. Hare, who has never appeared to greater advantago than as this reformed rake of polished manners and shrewd ready wit, and to Miss Irene Vanbrugh, for •whom Saturday evening was a veritable triumph. Hex performance " places " her once and for all as an actress of exceptional cleverness. She has shown that sho has ability before ; she h»3 always had a most engaging personality. But as Sophy Fu)lgarney, the municurist, who pits herself against the redoubtable Lord Quox, she moves into a higher rank altogether. How it comes about that Sophy is drawn into suck an encounter is soon told. Born on the Eden estates, a bailiffs daughter, sho is Muriel Eden's foster-sistor and Muriel Eden is the " creamy English girl " engaged to Lord Quox. The two girls kayo kept up their childish affection, and the warm-hearted Sophy (who, after passing through the successive stages of nursemaid, " useful maid," and " maid," has beon set up by the Edens at the head of a manicure shop in Bond-streot) is tormented by the thought of "hor darling" being bound in wedlock to "the wickedest ma*i in London." If she could catch him tripping in ever so small a way Muriel would refuse to mnrry him. and could give herself to Captain Bastling, the young and handsome soldier whom, in spite of her engagement, she still mo3ts without any one's knowledge but Sophy's at the manicure establishment. Lord Quox, however, is not to be caught. " A kiss or a squeeze of the waist — anything of that sort " vould do, but Sophy looks and sighs and pouts all in vain. This method failing, she will spy upon him and find out whether any other sneceeds, where she has failed. Soon she docs find something out. The Duchess of Strood, a foolish, extravagantly sentimental creature of 37, has been one of Lord Quox's cheros amios, and, much to his annoyance, she demands a farewell scene. She is staying with Quex's aunt at Richmond, uncf for some unaccountable reason he consents to " a parting m keeping with their great, attachment " in 'the boudoir adjoining hor bedroom, lato at night, By chance Sophy, who has been allowed to spond an afternoon in the grounds, overhears enough to guess that something of tho kind is intended, and her suspicions are strengthened when the Duchess announces that she has had to send her maid home. She rises to tho occasion and offers to take the absent maid's place. Then, of course, all happens in duo course. Quex goes to tho Duchoss's apartments merely to return her presents, and presently Sophy is discovored at the kaynolo. The sceno which follows between Quex and the girl who is determined to ruin his chance with Miss Eden is tho most ingenious Mr. Pinevo has ever writtou. The Duchess has been sent away by Quox to sharo a frionti's room on pretence of "nerves." Ho remains— to try and savo her reputation, ovon if lie cannot mend his own His offers of money are scornfully rejected. Sophy will tell nil she knows (which is not much, for Quex has been ice to his old flame's blandishments) and disclose the damning fact of his midnight viait. Quex's need move is moro effective than the attempt to buy silence. Ho has locknd (he doorc of tho rooms, and ho declares that if Sophy denounces him she shall donounce herself too.' Sho may iouno Ihe house, but tho Duchess is safe , Sophy and Quex will bo found alone. Hor story will not be bclievod Hor ehnraot-rr will bo gone. Neither her rage nor her appeals have any effect. At lost, in her dread of such exposure (which would also mean tho ending
of her own engagement to a Bond-street palmiit) the girl consents to bold her umguo. She is made to write a letter winch puts her iv Quex's power if ever he should produce it, and she turns to go, But suddenly the thought of Muriel comes into her heud. " Why, it's like selling Muriel I " she cries, " Just to get myself out of this, I'm simply handing her over to you ! 1 won't do it ! I won't ! " And she pulls violently at the bell. Her sudden self-soewticing change of front has a remarkable effect on v tho man. Mumbling wtuds of admiration, he thrusts the letter into her hand, unlocks tho door leading to f her bedroom, and flings ib open. But first the awakened servants at tho other door must bo dismissed with some explanation, of the loud ringing. A message about the Duchess's letters in the morning is invented by Quex, and when Sophy, a4l unerved and almost hysterical, has repeated it and totters across the room, he speaks in an altered tone. "Be 0i1',," he says kindly, "go to bed. Serve mo how you please. Miss Fullgarney, upon my soul I—l1 — I humbly beg your pardon." And the curtain falls on Sophy's " God bless you. You're a gentleman ! I'll do what I can for you ! " This sceno on Saturday night called forth an extraordinary display of enthusiasm. Superbly acted, it is a scene of great power. It is a page torn from the book of life. The pity is that it should not be a page relating some less ignoble incident. Lord Quox has now all the sympathies of the housa on his side. Bastling turn* out to be " just what Quox was at 28, and worse," and is soon exposed by Sophy's trickery. Whereupon, Muriel sends back to the jeweller's a present sho had bought for him, and says she will have a collar for her dog instead, at the same time asking Quex to marry her as soon as possible and take her away. Tho ending is natural, but unromantic. Indeed, there is no romance and very little sentiment in the play, and it must be confessed that, witty and brilliant/ and abounding in observation as it is, it shows us a world that is not attractive to contemplate. A world which bpends its mornings in manicure shops and palmists' apartments — a world which keeps French novels that .are "rather — you laiow— rather " in its bedroom and pretends to admire them for their "exquisitely polished stylo ; " a world of midnight appointments in women's boudoirs —is not a pleasant or an edifying spectacne. Mr. Pinero, "when interviewed as to his new play, condemned by tho Bishop of Wakefield ou the press notices as "the most immoral play that has ever disgraced tho stage of the country," said : " 'The Gay Lord Quex' is n picture of a certain aspect of contemporary society painted with as much vividness and strength as I am capable, of. In this play, as in the case af every play of mine that has had an underlying serious purpose, I desire that it should spenk for itself. Having once produced a play, it is my unvarying custom to leave it in the hands of the critics and the public." Could there be anything immoral in the character of Lord Quox 7 continued he. Certainly not in showing how a man mi^ht iedecm his past and become" honoui-able — even that is preached from the pulpit as well as the stage. Mr. Robert Brough is negotiating for the Australian rights of the play.
A Remarkable Drama., Evening Post, Volume LVII, Issue 136, 10 June 1899, Supplement
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