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THEATRE ROYAL- "THUNDERBOLT "

As New South Wales has no particular reason to be proud of the era in its history when bushrangers and their satellites, "bush telegraphs," flourished, patriotic people might consider that the less the rising generation are permitted to know about it the better. Nor does it strike thoughtful persons that to surround with a halo of romance the doings of outlaws, who cost the country a considerable amount of blood and treasure, who terrorised entire districts for years, asd frequently brought upon the police unmerited odium and ridicule, is likely to prove a desirable moral tonic to a certain section of our youthful population, who may require but little extra incentive to induce them to pursue devious paths. It may be true that among our past "knights of the road" there were few whose careers presented the cowardly treachery and callous indifference to human suffering that characterised Morgan and Ned Kelly, but the infamy of their exploits was only one of degree, and therefore the glamour thrown round them by dramatic authors is scarcely to be com

mended

The doings of Ward or, as his admirers styled him   "Thunderbolt," in the New England district, and particularly among the Moonbi ranges, have furnished a foundation upon which Messrs Ambrose Pratt and A. S. Joseph have built a melodrama which was pre- sented by "Mr Willam Anderson's Company at the Theatre Royal on Saturday night. The house was packed, and the occupants of the gallery, whether from overcrowding or excitement, were so noisy at times that it was impossible to follow the course of the piece. A managerial note informed the public that "a feature of the play is the restraint exhibited by the authors in dealing with a most exciting series of incidents, the Australian character having been sustained throughout, and the interest preserved with out recourse to the lurid sensationalism which is the mark of-many of the imported melodramas." No one     may be particularly sympathetic with foreign writers of dramatic pabulum of the kind indicated, hut many persons will probably take exception to the state nient that in the purely supposititious doings of the exalted bushranger, the "Australian character is sus

tained "

In the plot, Thunderbolt is surrounded by an amount of romance and heroism which rendered "Ro- bin Hood" and "Rob Roy" prolific themes for min- strels and poets, who lived in the "good old days" when highway robbery and cattle lifting were the natural concomitants of a turbulent period. Like the predatory deerstalker and man hunter of Sher- wood forest, he is depicted as an outlaw who robs the rich but spares the poor, and who, indeed, generously assists the latter from funds nefariously acquired from other people. He has a high opinion of his own virtue, and mentions the fact in verbose language, couched in terms refined enough to make the wallabies in his vicinity sit up with admiration, and subdue the desire of the kookaburras to laugh as they listen to his glowing rhetoric. When the gal-

lant captain comes on the scene, Jack Mason, son of the owner of Kurrajong station, has forged his fa- ther's name to a cheque, and being renounced by his parent, his sister, Maud Mason, enlists the sympathy and assistance of Thunderbolt. Youun Mason at a critical period, when he has agreed to join the   outlaw in sticking up the mail coach, mainly for   the purpose of securing the forged cheque, from the banker, is beguiled by the latter into drinking until   he is in a helpless state, and at the last moment Maude dons her brother's clothes and takes his part     as amateur bushranger. The design succeeds, and the banker is compelled to masticate and swallow the cheque which has caused all the trouble. Thun- derbolt escapes, hotly pursued by the police, but Maude is captured, and the arresting constable marches   her in triumph to McGurner's public-house, under the       impression that she is the outlaw's juvenile bush   telegraph. Thunderbolt, having eluded his pursuers by a daring leap on horseback across a yawning chasm, arrives in time to rescue the lady, and Mason, jun., having shown bravery and self-sacrifice in his anxiety to save his sister from disgrace, is forgiven and pressed to the paternal bosom, and Thunderbolt takes a pathetic farewell of the reunited family.

Undoubtedly the main feature of the drama will be found in its staging and scenery, which quite justified the enthusiastic summons by the audience for Mr Rege Robins, principal scenic artist. The picture represent- ing an angle of a bush road in the vicinity of Kurra- jong Station is probably one of the most charming that Mr. Anderson has produced. It is typical of the Aus- tralian hush, and the foreground of gum trees, ferns, and flowers with a perspective of a gorge running between thickly wooded hills, furnish an exceedingly pretty and artistic effect. To add to the realism, wallabies are moving about the undergrowth, and a   couple of live kookaburras, a cockatoo, and a magpie are perched upon the rocks or trees. The scene in which the sensational episode of Thunderbolt's leap   occurs was almost equally striking, and the act -a daring and risky one, even within stage limits- created quite a thrill of excitement and its culmination was marked by hearty and deserved applause. McGuire's   bush inn is also a correct replica of the old time poison-dispensing shanty, and a real Cobb's coach,     drawn by four horses, materially aided the veri- similitude of the accessories.

It Is not necessary to say much about the efforts of the company. With the exception of one or two stage waits, the drama went with gratifying smooth-

ness for the premiere of a piece, and when some of the exuberance of the dialogue has been submitted to the pruning knife the play may be brought within reasonable time limits. Of course, a love story runs through the plot, furnishing the necessary amount of sentimental interest, and the adventures of a jackeroo -though the character is absurdly exaggerated by the author- prove vastly amusing. Miss Eugenie Duggan capably realised the dramatic requirements of the heroine Maude Mason. Miss Ada Cuildford was effective in the somewhat uninteresting role of Thunderbolt's wife, and Miss Ethel Buckley gave a spirited sketch of   Willy McGuire, the alert bush scout. Miss Georgie     Leighford was also well placed as Mrs M'Guire. Mr. Laurence Dunbar, tall and commanding and looking somewhat sinister in a black beard, made an effective Thunderbolt, and considering the quantum of heroics he had to get rid of, was commendably perfect in his part. The other noteworthy characters were:- Mr. Alexander Mason, owner of Kurrajong station (Mr. Stirling Whyte), Jack Mason (Mr, George Cross) Geoffrey Marrow, banker and J. P. (Mr. Walter Dal-   gleish), Hon. Algernon Chetwynd, the "Jackeroo" (Mr.   Bert Bailey), Michael M'Guire (Mr. Edmund Duggan),   Trooper Denis O'Malley (Mr. Edwin Campbell), Harold   Forbes (Mr. J. L. Laurence), and Morgan (Mr. Temple  

Harrison). There was quite an army of shearers, sun-

downers, bar loafers, etc. The first matinee perform-

ance of "Thunderbolt" will be given on Wednesday

next.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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