Dramatic Society

" THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD " by J. M. SYNGE.

CAST:

Michael James Flaherty D. P. C. PEARCE.
Margaret Flaherty (" Pegeen ") R. THOMPSON.
Shawn Keogh M. M. H. SEWELL.
Philly Cullen.. K. W. PATCHETT.
Jimmy Farrell R. B. GREGORY.
Christopher Mahon  H. F. OXER.
Widow Quin   M. A. ROTHWELL.
Sara Tansey P. WOODHEAD.
Susan Brady R. J. J. ORTON.
Nelly Blake J. A. HODGSON.
James Mahon G. M. MACBETH.
Men of the village: B. A. SPARKES, P. B. DUCKWORTH, N. H. CUNNINGTON, M. C. M. ROEDEL, M. J. WELLS.

DRAMATIC work at King Edward VII's labours under many handicaps-in particular the small and temporary stage, the difficulties of rehearsing, and the awkward placing of the audience. It is more than time that money and attention were directed towards the need for something like average equipment. Now that the orchestra and organ have been established, it is surely the turn of drama, which, it should be remembered, can affect a larger number of boys and offer more varied kinds of training, back stage as well as fore.

It is all the more admirable, therefore, that a very small body of actors, with the help of a most skilful producer, can continue an ambitious and exciting series of pieces. The Playboy of the Western World would not now stir up the fury that met its first production in Dublin in 1907, but its rich dialogue and satiric fantasy remain, and it is practically unknown on the modern English stage. After Winterset, and after last year's regrettable playlessness, any choice would have been a problem; but the Society has not flinched from tackling Irish wit and Irish accent; they deserve our thanks.

It all happens at a remote shebeen on the coast of Mayo, " not a decent house within four miles, the way every living Christian is a bona-fide, saving one widow alone." The publican, with his pals, is just off for the night to Kate Cassidy's wake, leaving his daughter Pegeen in charge, when a tired timid young man walks in. A series of enquiries draws from him the exciting news that he has killed his " da " and is running from the " polls." At once he becomes a hero; is appointed pot-boy, courted not only by Pegeen and her friends, but by a widow of property and of sinister reputation: he wins all the races at the local sports and is finally exposed by the arrival of his father, far from dead, and breathing fiery vengeance.

"Did you marry three wives maybe? "

A promising plot, with turns in it are nearly foolproof, and it is presented in the richest, freshest peasant idiom-" Did you marry three wives maybe? I'm told there's a sprinkling have done that among the holy Luthers of the preaching north "-where every phrase sparkles and none is flat Anglo-Saxon. It is no use pretending that the actors quite rose to this. It requires a great effort to snap out of the understatement and the inhibited style of contemporary wireless and screen plays. Pearce did succeed in doing this, and aided by a perfect costume and make-up, really became a Connacht landlord. Shawn Keogh, too, appreciated the rhythm and value of his words. But both hero and heroine were guilty far too often of throwing away the glorious lines Synge gave them. On the other hand, they both played with a certain quiet sincerity that was agreeable and, within its limits, convincing. But both were over-solemn; Oxer did not convey any sense of wonder at the astonishing things that were happening inside him and about, and Thompson had clearly been far too well educated at the regional High School.

The other female parts were very well done; you could believe in the trio of village girls, particularly in Woodhead's Sara Tansey. Rothwell's Widow Quin stood out as a rich and vital piece of acting, in gesture, word and carriage. Another vigorous performance was given by MacBeth as James Mahon—clearly a tough old devil who might well need to be killed three times to make sure-but his accent, against Synge's orders, suggested that he had spent his life as a Middle West hobo.


Do you think I look so easy quenched with the tap of a loy? "
[Photos by P. J. UNWIN]
"And I hit a blow on the ridge of his skull"

On this tiny stage every movement counts, and grouping is so important as to be in danger of becoming an obsession. It was a special virtue of production that both were handled with discretion. When a photogenic group was needed-as in the catechism of Christy, his story to the women, on his fight with his father-it was provided decisively but without artificiality.

I notice that there has been no Elizabethan play since 1937. Is it perhaps time for a full-blooded, imaginative melodrama such as Macbeth? A couple of armies and a ghost-haunted banquet should be child's play for the Dramatic Society. May they flourish!

G. H. C.