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THE BLAND HOLT SEASON., Issue 10445, 15 October 1897
THE BLAND HOLT SEASON.
*IN SIGHT OF ST. PAUL'S.' -;\ 'There was another change of programme at" the Princesa'a last night, wheaMr SuttonTane's melodrama.' In Sight of St. Paul's' was staged for the first time in New Zealand. The theatre was packed in every part, and, in the circle especially, difficulty was experienced in finding' sitting accommodation for all the patrons. : The cavalry and mounted rifle contingent from -the camp at Tahuna Park were present in strong force, ■ and as they occupied the central portion of the dress circle, they gave to that part of the house a verystriking appearance, fin Sight "of St. Paul's' is a very powerful play, and, whilst the subject matter is not above the ordinary,'the production, beeause of its many fine dramatic incidents and the scope given for scenic effect, is undoubtedly the strongest put on by Mr Holt during the present season. Shortly put, the story centres round one Harry Chichester, who falls a viotim to the wiles of a clever adventuress, Cynthia Dell, known as "The Panther," and in order to keep pace with her demands he. raises money by forging his father's namo. As discovery and disgrace are about to overtake him his brother Tom steps in and takes the blame on his own shoulders, and becomes exiled in a London slum. After two years of slum life he is discovered by his family and reconciled. He afterwards tries to rescue his brother from the infatuation of "The Panther," and whilst the two brothers are arguing Harry is shot by Captain Gridston, who is also infatuated with Cynthia, and has long been jealous of Harry. Tom is suspected of the crime and arrested, but is eventually cleared. As was only, to be expected, several of the scenes are of a very sensational nature, completely eolipaing anything before attempted by this most daring of managers. The opening scene depicts a London roof garden by night, with a bird's-eye view of • the sleeping city shown on the canvas in the background. The piece de resistance, however, is the scene showing the Bohemian mansion of Cynthia Dell, known as "The Panther." This is a brilliant Boene, and dramatically is the strongest in the play. The occasion is a birthday party, and "The Panther " has gathered around her a number of other Bohemian women, for whose entertainment a supper has been prepared. Looked in another room in the house is the heroine of the play, Aileen Millar, who has been induced to visit the place on the representation that she may be able to dear her jianci of the suspicion of having murdered his brother. Aileen is forced to join the guests of "The Panther," but she dashes to the floor the glass with which she is asked to drink success to the adventuress, and an exciting altercation follows, ending in the latter challenging the heroine to a'duel with pistols. Aileen shrinks from this prospect, and Beatrice Morland, a woman who openly hates Cynthia, takes up the quarrel for her, and in the scuffle " The Panther" falls fatally wounded. At thia moment an alarm of fire is given. The majority of the women—all but Aileen, who has swooned—fly in alarm, leaving their hostess lying prostrate. Cynthia's husband and Aileen's lover appear on the scene, the latter breaking Mb way through tho window, and the women are removed to. a place of safety in the nick of time, for the flames are shooting up and tongues of fire are lickiDg the floor and walla of the room, whioh is full of smoke; the firebells clang and the members of the fire brigade fight their way in through falling timbers and fire and smoke, and with the play of water upon the flames do their work. Mr Holt sticks at nothing in his endeavor to give realistic presentations, and in this scene he outvies all other performances. The fire scene is the most daring ever attempted on a Dunedin stage, and had all the appearance of a real and serious conflagration. Needless to say it was received with demonstrations of entire approval. The scene representing the Aspasia Club, with the dramatic incidents enacted therein, and the concluding scene in St. Paul's Cathedral, where a festal service is gone through, even to the processional and recessional hymns, were very striking and complete in all details. The mounting was of Mr Holt's very be&t, which is tantamount to Baying it is on a scale of unrivalled grandeur for a Dunedin stage. Nor was the portrayal of the characters one whit behind tne mounting. The cast of characters is long, but every memberof the company acted in his and her best style, and one and all combined to make the production eminently sucoeesful; and that this was the opinion of the audience was made amply manifest by the frequent, hearty, and prolonged applause. The bulk cf -the work fell upon the ladies, who, without exception, proved themselves equal to the occasion. Miss 'Watson, cast in the charaoter of Cynthia Dell, "The Panther," gave one of the best expositions of her dramatic power she has. yet given us It was clever and finished, and in the scathing denunciation of Aileen in the supper room scene she displayed a power of passion wd gave herself over withsuoh abandonment to the depicting of the character that tho performance was one of the best it has been our pleasure to witness for a long time. The part is a difficult one, for it necessitates the portrayal of repeated different moods, but in every respect Miss Watson was successful, her performance being completely satisfactory. Miss Frances Ross took the part of Aileen Millar, the heroine of the play. She has very little heavy work, but what there is she performs creditably. The lines where she holds up "The Panther" to Bcorn and afterwards appeals to the women round about to lea 1 better lives are powerfully recited and given with fitting dramatic effect. In the other passages of lesser importance Miss Ross is also seen to advantage, and in the character is successful. Mjbs Fitzmaurice Gill, as Beatrice Morland, has several short passages, and in her rendering of them sustains the favorable impression she has created during tho season. Mr Albert Norman has been again allotted the portfolio of villain, and take 3 the part of Captain Gridston in his usual accomplished manner. He bore himself at all times with a demeanor befitting the occation, and gave a representation that was highly snisfacfcory, and met with a befitting reception at the hands of the audience, Mr W. E. Baker, as Tom Chichester, the hero of the Btory, who takes upon himself the blame for his brother Harry's misdeeds, waßvery successful, his efforts giving complete satisfaction. Mr J. Cosgrove as Harry Chichester, and Mr J. Montgomery as Fretly Burnsides, husband of "The Panther," acted well in their short parts, and materially assisted in the success of the production. The lighter vein is supplied by Mr Bland Holt as Jim Polfrey (a London cabby), Mrs Bland Holt as Becky Vetch, and Mr Charles Brown as Robert Treacher (an attorney). This trio are responsible for a great deal ot genuine merriment. The part of a London cabby is one that suits Mr Holt very well indeed, and he simply revels in it. The audience were time after time fairly, convulsed with laughter, and the three humorists were frequently heaitily applauded. Other parts were successfully taken by Messra B. C. Corlesse, A. Harford, and M. Kemp. Everything passed off very smoothly, the arrangements being evidently very carefully supervised. The scenery ia changed with commendable promptitude, and in thia connection it might be well to remark .for the convenience of thoso who go out between the acts that the intervals are very short, and so that the audience might not be disturbed by their coming in after the curtain has risenthey should make their arrangements accordingly. 'ln Sight of St. Paul's is to be repeated on thenextfour nights,and, judging by thegreat success it was last night and the unqualified approval that was manifested, we have little hesitation in saying that crowded houses are assured.
THE BLAND HOLT SEASON., Issue 10445, 15 October 1897
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