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THE WARNER THEATRICAL COMPANY., Issue 8041, 18 October 1889
THE WARNER THEATRICAL COMPANY.
'Drink,' » seven-act drama adapted by Charles Reade from Zola's renowned novel, was produced last evening at the Princess's, Opinions will probably be divided aa to the merits of the play as a whole. For earselves, we cannot speak of H m terms of unqualified praise. The first four arts were dull, even to the verge of tcdiowsness, and might have been largely cut down withoat prejudicing the effect of the moral lesson which the novelist and the playwright have* combined to eoforae. These earlier aete deal wjth the most commonplace themes. We first see the interior of a cottage, aid Lantier, the drunken occupant thereof, neglecting and ill-using bis adorable wife,, who has friends in two workmen—Conpeau, a. ,good natured plumber, and Grouget, a» temperance preacher. The sincerity 08 these two young men is perhaps open to» just the least suspicion, in view of their acknowledged tenderness towards ©ervaise,. but the adapter has so ordered their walk land conversation as to give their profweeal disinterestedness- a fair chasce of being 'credited by the audienoe, and no improper conduct is suggested.- Lantier disappears, and is reported to bejdead. Coupeau then courts- Gervaiw, and; is accepted, but on the distinct understanding, ratified by the temperance pledge,, that* he will never drink. Oh the wedding day Lantier reappears in the flesh, and throw* ; the party into a state of consternation by I demanding his wife, but Gouget pramptlv silences him with evidence that in marrying Gervaise he had committed bigamy, ana Lantier forthwith allies himself with Virginie (with whom he had compromised himself while ltving as Gervaise's husband) to bring about the ruin of Coupeau and bis wife. This couple, however, live happily together for several years—long enough to' see a daughter reared to* the age of four years when an accident occurs to Coupeau, who falls with a. rickety scaffold and is dangerously hurt. This is the essence of the story, so far as the principals are concerned, up to the end of the fourth act. During the narration of this* not remarkable tale the audience werereasonably enough asking what there wasin the play to entitle it to attention,, and vainly wondering when the opportunity would arise for good acting. But with the fifth act a change came, and for the remainder of the play the of the audience was enchained by the stirring scenes presented, Lantier, with the assistance of certain operatives who work only between drinks, decoys Coupeau into a drinking-shop. Coupeau refuses to break his pledge, but at last yields when taunted with being under the control of his wife. Ho is tempted to drink eight glassesin as many seconds for the sake of showing that there is at least one man of France who can emulate a feat said to have been performed by an Englishman. He becomes madly drunk; and in this state strikes his wife when she enters the publichouse in search of him. Coupeau drinks himself into a state of utter prostration, his home is stripped of furniture and food, and he is sent to a hospital, from which he is subsequently released, with the caution that if he ever touches anything stronger than claret the consequences will probably be fatal. On returning to the wreck of his home, Virginie, who has gone there to exult over Gervaise, professes friendship, and offers to send Coupeau a bottle of claret. When he obtains the bottle, Coupeau discovers that it contains not claret but brandy. He struggles with all his strength against the temptation to taste the spirit, but eventually he gives in, drinks till he loses his reason, and falls down dead in a fit of delbivm tremens. The last act is devoted to putting matters to rights as far as possible. Mr Warner's acting in the fifth and sixth acts was wonderfully realistic, and fully excused the production of a play that without a great actor in the chief part wonld not be highly thought of; indeed, if Mr Warner had omitted this drama from the season's list, Dunedin theatre-goers would not have, fully understood the comprehensiveness of his ability. The diseased, enfeebled condition of the miserable Coupean as he emerges from the hoppitul was represented so forcibly as to make one shudder; and the scene leading up to the climax, in which the wretched man raves about makes and devils and other monstrosities the creation of his wrecked brain, u; s to vividly worked up that the audience sat completely enthralled, having no eyes nor ears for anything but what was being enacted until the curtain fell, when a pet-feet hurricane of applause showed their appreciation of the artist's power. Alter seeing the performance we can well understand that Mr Warner's acting of the part was a great strain upon his health when sustained during a long season in London. Miss Gracie Warner was throughout a womanly, and therefore lovable Gervaise, and obtained
special recognition by her delivery of the allegory in the last act, wherein she describes a vision of death and the glorions hereafter. Miss Constance Deorwyn was well cast as Virginie, the jealous and revengeful woman who brings Coupeau to ruin. It was the first opportunity this lady haa had this season of showing her full ability, and she was not slow to take advantage of it. Miss Lillie Clitherow sustained the part of Phoebe, the friend of Gervaise, in an acceptable manner. The ostentatiously virtuous Gouget was represented by Mr Stewart, who did his best with this rather poor part. Mr Hambro played as Lantier; Mr Stephenson as a retired soldier; Mr Phillips as a locksmith; and Mr Deering as a stonemason. This last-mentioned pair were the idle workmen before referred to. The other characters were allotted to Messis A. Seuton, J. A. Patterson, and C. Putman, and Misses Eliot, Leighford, and Hayes; while the part of the child was cleverly played by little Gertie Frascr. The piece was well mounted. ' Drink' will be repeated this evening.
THE WARNER THEATRICAL COMPANY., Issue 8041, 18 October 1889
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