Sydney Players' Club.
Sheridan's play, "The Rivals," must inevit- ably be amusing, no matter how it is placed on the stage. The linguistic feats of Mrs. Malaprop, the rages of Sir Anthony Ab
solute, the parvenu pretentiousness ol Bob Acres - these and many other aspects of the comedy are sure of their effect. But for a company of actors to draw from, "The Rivals" its authentic flavour as a comedy of manners this is another matter. There must be poise, a feeling of the period; a certain courtliness of gesture, if the text of Sheridan Is to have
its full value.
In the light of these considerations, the. performance which the Sydney Players' Club gave at St. James's Hall on Saturday night was worthy of the highest praise. As pro- ducer, Mr. J. E. C. Appleton had brought
this old comedy to life In a way that made I It seem perfectly fresh and new. The char- I acters were well developed; yet they remained always in the true sphere of comedy, and never sought to gain an effect through farcical exaggeration. Mrs. Malaprop, in particular, was kept well within bounds, and proved, therefore, all the more entertaining. The enunciation of the lines, though forceful, was always cultivated and in the highest degree distinct. There was plenty of light and shade in the speech It seemed to come naturally, without forcing. In gesture, too, the players were all the more eloquent because restrained. There was no restless, unnecessary movement.
The settings, too, were In the best of taste in their modest way. It seemed a mistake in the opening scene to have indicated every brick on the panel representing a wall, since this excess of realism clashed with the purely decorative scheme in other parts of the play;
and the glimpse of landscape behind Kings- I mead Fields, though beautiful In Itself, sug- l gested Italy rather than the environs of Bath; but, apart from these minor flaws, the back- grounds of the various scenes fulfilled their purpose admirably. Moreover, the black cur- tains provided a fine foil for the costumes. In the scenes In Julia's room, the gold hang- ings blent with Julia's pink dress to form an ensemble of exquisite colouring. At the end. when all the characters were grouped in Klngsmead Fields, the general effect was decidedly lively and harmonious. The vivid- ness of all this had been greatly enhanced by the system of lighting, which was superin- tended by Mr. Jack Stacey.
One of the most forceful pieces of acting in the play was that of Mr. Kenneth Fowles, as Captain Absolute. Strong and resonant in voice, Mr. Fowles drew a convincing por- trait of a brisk, downright, robust young military man; and, at the same time, he in- dicated, with discreet emphasis, the humour which Is so Important an element In Captain Absolute's character. As Lydia, Miss Alice Gould was always graceful and charming. She suggested the girl's petulant, romantic character very gently and delicately; but always preserved a keen sense of reality. Apart from one horrible pause when she forgot her lines In the first act, Miss Beatrice Wines made a delightfully human Mrs Malaprop. Mr. John Appleton, besides producing the play, had taken the part of the love-sick Faulkland, and played it well, even though a little more decision in its humorous aspects would have improved it during the third scene. Then there were Mr. Edward Cavill as peppery old Sir Anthony; Mr. T. T. Henery as Acres; Mr. James Hancock as Sir Lucius; Miss Kath- leen Dickey as Lucy; Miss Nan Gardner as Julia; Mr. William Wines in the two parts of David and the coachman; and Mr. Douglas Cook as Fag-each one contributing valuably to the plcturesqueness of the ensemble.
"The Rivals" will be staged again next Saturday night.