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A PROPAGANDA PLAY.
"Dragon's Teeth," which was presented by the Players' Club at St. James' Hall on Sat- urday night, is a play with a message, and little else. The scene is the living-room of Colonel Marston's home at an arsenal. Lydia has just arrived as the fiancee of Darrell Marston, the colonel's son, and she is appalled to discover that people are coolly preparing far the next war. Young Marston (influenced perhaps by Lydia, though this is not made clear) is tortured with doubts whether he should preserve or destroy the blue-prints of his invention for controlling crcwless bomb- ing 'planes by wireless. Lydia has a dream in which her recollections of the lost war, her fears about the next, and odd phrases she has heard at the arsenal, are mingled in a «omlc-trogedy phantasy. The outcome of ii all is that the Inventor hurls his machine on to the floor. That solves his private problem, for Lydia and he can now marry with easy consciences; but what of the greater problem which the play discusses?
The play is so heavily didactic that it is not Irrelevant to examine its argument. It pro- pounds several ideas about war that are wide- spread to-day. Wars, it declares, are engi- neered by munition makers and newspaper proprietors (a comfortable theory because it absolves almost everybody from blame); wars, it implies, can bo prevented by not making guns and lethal gas (as though people would not make and have not made war with scythes and bill-hooks if nothing better offered); war, Lydia announces quite definitely, has now become "degraded" (Implying that she has no objection to one of those glamorous, old-fash- ioned wars in which people were skewered with pikes and scalded with boiling oil). As propagandist, Shirland Quin, who wrote this play, relies chiefly on creating fear of new ar- maments. Learned people who have exam- ined the subject objectively say that the next war will differ from its predecessors in that the object of armed forces will be to terrify, whereas previously it was to destroy. It is orguable, therefore, that Mr. Quin and the producers of war films that are filled with horrors arc playing into the hands of their adversaries by creating in advance exactly the state of mind that an aggressor using un- tried and therefore frightening means of at- tack would desire. Surely there arc other emotions apart from fear on which'a desire for universal peace can be founded.
The first two acts of this play are popu- lated by very unconvincing people. Those of them who are inured to arsenal life make ab- surdly ogreish remarks. "You have Just got on to a new blistering gas, haven't you, Oliver?" asks the colonel brightly over the teacups and In the presence of two female visitors, and there is much in the same strain. Lydia's dreom, however, in the third act, is, theatrically, a very different matter. Its comi- cal distortions, its sudden changes of sub- ject, Its mixing of sense and nonsense make it a very convincing dream-more real in fact than the teacup scenes that had gone before. John Appleton and Harley Goodsall, who de- signed and produced the play, have done their work brilliantly. The make-up of the char- acters (Including top-hatted financiers, sol- diers, a newsboy, bereaved mothers, and a magnificent armoured Mars) was excellent. The drilling of the dieam-pcople, the lighting of the stage, and the control of the voices was most effective. The whole phantasy had unity of mood. By itself, and apart from the play In which It was set, it was a compelling exposition of the tragedy and cruelty of war. Leading parts were played by Grenville Spen- cer (as young Marston), Laura West (who played Lydia admirably), Beatrice Wines (as the colonel's wife), and William Wines (as the colonel). Altogether there were 40 people in
"Dragon's Teeth" will be repeated on the next two Saturday nights._