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1 correction by doug.butler - Show corrections



Activities in 1936.


From the point of view of theatrical art, Sydney has been limited in 1936 by the fact that only two professional theatres remain open. One of these is the Theatre Royal, where J. C. William- son, Ltd., displays its series of attrac- tions. The other is the Tivoli, which specialises in vaudeville.

The large audiences which regularly attend the Tivoli prove that a genuine demand exists for this type of entertainment. The crowds at Gilbert and Sullivan demonstrate equally clearly that those plays have their following. As for the Russian ballet, a glance at the entrance of the Theatre Royal any night nowadays will prove that the city Is ballet


Sydney numbers a million and quarter inhabitants. That a large percentage of this population is ready to take an interest when some really exciting artistic event comes along has been proved again and again. There was Sir Benjamin Fuller's opera season two years ago. There were Richard Crooks's recitals; and Dr. Malcolm Sargent's orchestral con- certs. All these drew crowded houses.


But, with only one theatre devoted to any- thing but vaudeville, followers of a particular type of theatrical activity find themselves for the most part, thwarted and frustrated. People who love only light musical shows with gay jokes and catchy tunes must go to films while the ballet is on. Those who prefer spoken drama have been diverted to the Little Theatres, while the Theatre Royal has been housing shows like "Yes, Madam?" and "Jill, Darling." Advocates of charming old-world comic-operas have gnashed their teeth to find Sydney's one playhouse occupied by the ag- gressive American dialogue of "Three Men on a Horse" and "Anything Goes." On the other hand, the younger generation, demanding modernity above all things, has been irritated beyond words at a continuous procession of Gilbert and Sullivans. Finally, grand opera- tic enthusiasts have had no chance of an outlet at all.

These various divisions of the theatre-going public overlap. But, at a general view, they are definite enough. In a city like Sydney, whose readiness to pay for amusement is de- monstrated by an extraordinary number of picture theatres, there Is surely scope for each section to be catered for continuously In a separate playhouse. In the old days, the most successful managers were those who chose a policy and stuck to it. Even within recent times, Her Majesty's Theatre was regularly devoted to big musical productions, and the Criterion Theatre to spoken plays.


The Royal got into the stride of 1936 pro- duction with "Anything Goes," a noisy musical from New York. Some weeks later, "Jill, Darling" provided acceptable humour In the English manner. Then came "Three Men on a Horse," a clever and exceedingly well-acted spoken comedy, whose American cast was headed by Mr. Jonathan Hole. Later, another English piece, "Yes, Madam?" provided Mr. Charles Heslop with abundant opportunities for mirth. The Gilbert and Sullivan season led on directly to the present highly attractive productions of ballet. Also, there were two short seasons of spoken drama at matinees. Emlyn Williams's "Night Must Fall" was an interesting realisation of a study in morbid psychology. It fell below the highest standard mainly owing to mistakes in casting. Keith Winter's "The Shining Hour" remedied these defects; and provided a really fine, gripping piece of drama. The actors included Miss Elaine Hamill, Mr. Campbell Copelin, Miss Ethel Morrison, Mr. Lloyd Lamble, and Miss Phyllis Baker.


Among the Little Theatres one of the most interesting phenomena during the year has been a run on Clifford Odets's plays. The New Theatre League led the way in July with "Till the Day I Die." On a complaint by the Consul-General for Germany, this anti-Nazi piece was banned by the Chief Secretary. The New Theatre League attempted to defy the prohibition, but was driven into its own club- rooms, where for some months it gave a per- formance of the play each week before a large invited audience. According to latest infor- mation, the Chief Secretary has stopped this activity by declaring the clubrooms a public


Besides presenting "Till the Day I Die," the New Theatre League entered Odets's one-act play, "Waiting for Lefty," at the City of Sydney Eisteddfod, and won first prize with It. The members also staged "Paradise Lost" at the Savoy Theatre; but, according to report, the production was under-rehearsed, and did not prove very successful. The Independent Theatre, on the other hand, scored one of the triumps of Its career with that other Odets drama, "Awake and Sing!"


The Odets proved the climax of an unusually interesting series of plays put on by Miss Doris Fitton, as director of the Independent Theatre. The list included "Touch Wood," by Dodie Smith, the author of "Autumn Crocus;" Pinero's quaint piece, "The Enchanted Cot- tage:" "The Dybbuk," a Jewish fantasy on a traditional theme; Jeffrey Dell's grim murder story, "Payment Deferred;" James Bridie's comedy, "The Black Eye;" and Tchekhov's melancholic, reflective play, "The Three Sisters." "The Royal Family of Broadway" had a special advantage at its first perfor- mance, because Miss Jean Innes (Mrs. Victor Jory) played an important part, and she is said to have played it in delightful and experi- enced style. Later, the comedy had a matinee performance on the full-size stage at the Theatre Royal. Finally, Miss Fitton staged "Peter Pan" at a series of matinees at the Savoy Theatre, and attracted such crowds that large numbers of people had to be turned from the doors, she aims at making "Peter Pan" an Institution in Sydney; and she seems to be succeeding.


Among other amateur bodies, the Players' Club must be mentioned for its productions of Mackenzie's "The Maitlands," and L. du Garde Peach's stimulating satire on war called "The Path of Glory." The Kursaal has presented several of the masterpieces of dramatic literature, including "Romeo and Juliet" and "The School for Scandal." Miss Beryl Bryant's playhouse has exemplified Its high standard of competence with "Cherries Are Ripe." Thespian Dramatic Productions had a success with Alfred Sangster's "The Brontes." Miss Diana Reeve produced T. S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" with un- usual power. There was also Mr. John Gould's version of "The Quest of the Holy Grail" at the University Great Hall-an impressive piece of pageantry.

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