"THE LAST ENEMY."
Frank Harvey's Drama.
PRODUCED BY THE PLAYERS* CLUB
As Mr. Frank Harvey is so well known in Australia, where he appeared on the stage for I many years, the first Sydney production of one
of his dramas, "The Last Enemy," by the Players' Club at St. James's Hall on Saturday night attracted considerable Interest. "The Last Enemy" was staged in London, at the Fortune Theatre, on December 19 last, and ran for 12 weeks. It reveals, particularly in the second act, the author's ability in writing a vigorous scene and in the drawing of charac- ter, but, for all that, it is not a well constructed play. Mr. Harvey takes a long time to develop his central motive, and when it is developed one speculates whether so visionary a theme was worth all the. trouble.
In the first scene two explorers, the elderly Dr. Alexander McKenzie and young James Churchill, are at the point of death in the wastes of the Antarctic. In the next scene they have crossed into the other world, and are at a place described as "the first landing," the foot of a staircase leading to heaven. They are met by a mysterious personage styled "the Janitor," who partly explains the new conditions, and indulges in certain meta- physical reflections for which Mr. Harvey would hardly seek theological authority. Dr. McKenzie, troubled about his misdeeds in life, is comfortingly assured, for instance, that sin is only an invention of man. The Janitor gives the key to the play when he propounds his doctrine of affinity. Every soul, accord- ing to this proposition, has its affinity, and these two souls, if they do not meet on earth, will do so in the other world. Even if the man or woman has married another, this fact does not destroy the spiritual relationship.
Both of the dead men accordingly revisit the earth in the course of the play to meet their affinities. Churchill comes back to save his, Cynthia Perry, at a moment when she is in danger from the attentions of the half drunken Jerry Warrender behind a locked door. The door is suddenly opened, Churchill walks in-not as a ghost, but as a human being-and informs Miss Perry, as he leads her out, that she is urgently needed at home. McKenzie returns to comfort the dying moments of his son "by affinity," Harry Graham, lying mortally wounded on a battle-
field in France.
Such is the leading motive of this strange play. A fantasy of this character might have gained some plausible colour had it been well handled, but the dramatist has failed to connect his incidents except in the most sketchy fashion, and becomes too discursive in relating his story. He has gained his best results in the picture which he draws of irresponsible youth of the present day, per- sonified by Miss Perry, Warrender, and their cocktail drinking set, absorbed in the craze for excitement, barely tolerant of their elders, and impatient of all restraints of discipline. Mr. Harvey has written this part of his play with decided power and conviction, and por- trays admirably the sobering effect of terrible war upon these young people.
In a cast of average amateur standard, Miss Naomi Waters, of attractive presence, played effectively for the most part the role of Cynthia Perry, though she did not entirely meet the demands of the dramatic scene with Warrender, a character sustained with fair success by Mr. Jack Appleton. Mr. Harvey has written some good comedy for Cynthia's father, but this humour was treated rather mildly by Mr. Edward Cavill, as old Perry. Miss Rita Humfress skilfully por- trayed the character of Cynthia's aunt. Mr. S. R. Irving, who produced the piece effec- tively, gave distinctive value to the role of the Janitor. Messrs. J. G. Bartlett, as Dr. Mc- Kenzie; Mr. L. Hay Simpson, well in character as Churchill; and Mr. Cliff Peir as Harry Graham, were also prominent. It has become the fashion nowadays for some dramatists to bring the language of the taproom on to the stage, and Mr. Harvey puts some of these expletives into the mouths of the people of this play; but it is a fashion none the less repellent.
"The Last Enemy" will be repeated to-night.