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THE SHAKESPEARE CLUB., Issue 8017, 20 September 1889
THE SHAKESPEARE CLUB.
The entertainment given by the Dunedin Shakespeare Club last evening was one of the most enjoyable yet presented by these diligent students. The reading was on the whole exceptionally satisfactory, and the programme being of a varied nature the interest of the audience was maintained throughout. JtJy way of prologue Mr A. Wilson, M.A., president of the club, delivered an address, from which we make the following extract: —At one time the club tried the plan of devoting one evening to a single play. This plan has, in my opinion, much to recommend it. It is a great thing, in dealing with a play of Shakespoare, to be able to seize the play in its entirety ; to see the whole dramatic mechanism and system of construction ; to move step by step with the play wright in his inevitable march of events and evolution of character, and so to be able to carry away the impression of the whole, and not of a fragment. It was, I fancy, the desire to enable its audience to do something like this that induced the club to try the plan of taking up a single play for a single evening. And I think the club accomplished a good deal of what it intended by its experiment. But nevertheless it has seen good to return to a mixed programme, and this plan also has certainly its advantages. In the first place, it enables members of the club to spread their reading, between one entertainment and another, over wider ground, and gives to individual readers a better chance of finding congenial parts ; and, in the second place, it gives that relief which I think is a good thing for both readers and listeners. Even an acted play of Shakespeare, with all the aids of costume and scenery, is nowadays regarded as a somewhat serious entertainment. We hav9 acquired a relish for more superficial things; and if an acted play is a strain on the attention, much more is a read play, however excellent the reading may be. It was a wisdom doubtless begotten by experience that prompted Shakespeare himself to bring the farcical sometimes into grotesque neighborhood with the tragic; for if the stage is the brief of life, it should not be one long, unrelieved tragedy; and so I think the club does well to give us relief from the too cruel intensity of ' King Lear' by allowing us to feci also some of the efferveEcent comedy and fun of ' Midsummer Night's Dream.' Surely no choice could have pointed oat with such emphasis the multiform genius of Shakespeare. Think of the two works that are in juxtaposition — 'King Lear' and 'Midsummer Night's Dream!' At first sight you would say they are poles asunder —that no one man could have written them. King Lear, the awful picture of all that is great and little in man, the terrible story of a kingly nature stung to madness by the unnatural treatment of those from whom he had most kindness to expect. On the other hand, the curious medley of seemingly irreconcilable elements—a mythical Athenian King and an Amazon Queen, an etherealised, spiritualised Teuton mythology—and _an artisan life, certainly of no other place or time than England in the sixteenth century. Hopeless incongruity, you would say ; who could make any homogeneous whole out of Buch impossible ingredients ? And yet when you resd this strange production you have no criticism left. The most audacious anachronisms do not startle you, not because anachronisms are desirable—or, indeed, permissible—in any sort of composition, but because in this dream of dreams you lay no more emphasis on mere consistency than you would in a midsummer or midwinter night's dream of your own. Should you think it strange if in a dream you saw a gentleman in chain armor—say Richard Cceur de Lion—dancing the trois temps waltz with a lady in a satin bodice and hooped petticoat? I am sure you would think it the prettiest and most natural thing in the world, and you would be neither awed nor startled to find yourself in a set of lancers vis-a-vis to William the Conqueror. When you awake and become critical the whole thing may seem to you absurd, but whilst you are in the whirl of it everything seems to happen exactly as you expected it. So it is with Shakespeare's dream. No doubt wide-awake criticism might find something to cavil at in the ' Midsummer Night's Dream,' but when you are reading it everything is exquisite, everything appropriate, everything just as it ought to happen in this wonderland of dream. The first reading on the programme was from 'Julius Caesar,' the selections being from the second, third, and fourth acts. Mr Burton as Brutus, Mr Park as Cassius, and Mr Macdonald as Antony had the bulk of the work in this reading, and acquitted themselves most creditably, Mr Macdonald earning a vigorous round of applause for his recital from memory of the funeral oration. Miss Alexander entered thoroughly into the spirit of Portia's part, and Messrs Stone, Grant, Wilkinson, and Watson read the minor parts. The second play dealt with was 'King Lear"—selections from the first act with Mr Burton as King Lear, and Misses Alexander, Anderson, and Kate Grant as the daughters. It was of course expected that Mr Burton would give an impressive reading of his part, and in this we were not disappointed : but not less commendable was the thoughtful rendering of the daughters' lines; and Messrs Whitson, Stone, Wilkinson, Park, Macdonald, Grant, and Watson read the subsidiary parts in an acceptable manner. The third selection by the club was from 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' and in this a happy surprise was experienced, the members having evidently made a special study of the comedy, with the result that the reading was a source of the • utmost delight to the audience. By this we may judge of the progress made by the club in the study of the great master. Any average scholar may by patient attention five a tolerable reading of tragedy, but hakesperian comedy—and, indeed, all comedy—requires for its proper rendering some measure of the actor's art, and it is just here where most amateurs fail. Those who were at the Choral Hall last night will, we are sure, hope with us that at the next entertainment we may have a repetition of the selection. Mr Burton was cast as Bottom, Mr Watson as Flute, Mr Macdonald as Theseus, Mr Wilkinson as Philostrate, Mr Stone as Snug, Mr Whitson as Quince, Mr Grant as Starveling, and Miss Moss as Hippolyta. We must not forget to mention that Miss Anderson and Miss De Carle acted as chorus throughout the evening. The musical selections were left to Messrs Barth, W. F. Young, and A. G. Melville. Mr Barth's pianoforte solos were simply delightful ; Mr Young, though suffering from a severe cold, sang ' The Bellringer' in a tasteful manner; and Mr Melville gave 'My sweetheart when a boy' in a way that indicates a useful career as a vocalist when he has acquired more confidence.
THE SHAKESPEARE CLUB., Issue 8017, 20 September 1889
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