Puslapio vaizdai

face to face with realities, in showing him how his very existence depends on supporting authority, actively and passively. Moreover the worst is over. Even Irish trade returns for the current year show surprisingly large totals. And having got through that black week when men looked in one another's faces in despair, the week which saw the successive deaths of Griffith and Collins, there can be now no further occasion for despair; for the men who weathered that troubled time can certainly bring the ship into port. Again, there has been a good sign within the last fortnight. Winter is approaching, the season of mists and rain, when it will be no pleasant place for 'the boys' on the hills. Mr. De Valera has made it appear that he was all along a constitutionalist. If he dies in the last ditch it will be by an accident!




OME fifteen years ago a distinguished playwright, Mr. Henry Arthur Jones, in a rather melancholy lecture on the condition of the stage, laid down what he regarded as the four corner-stones on which national drama must needs be built if it were ever to rise above the nineteenth century morass. Mr. Jones' arguments were, at the time, entirely sound, but they are now interesting for another reason. If we examine them we find that since 1906, despite the critics, we have made progress towards better things. It would be interesting to inspect the four 'corner-stones' in the light of the last few years.

The first of the four is stated to be the establishment of definite and continuous relations between the drama and literature. The divorce of literature and the drama, as every student knows, persisted, save for the short interlude of Sheridan and Goldsmith, from the Restoration Comedy until the period of Wilde and Shaw. The successful playwrights were not men of letters, nor were their plays literature, and conversely, the men of letters were not successful playwrights, as witness the long line of lifeless unplayed plays that grace the published works of nineteenth century novelists and poets. Shelley, Scott, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Dickens, Thackeray, Browning, Tennyson and Stevenson all wrote plays, but with the possible exception of Tennyson's Becket, produced nothing that is playable. It would be interesting for some student of literary biography to discover if these men looked upon the theatre as a serious institution, or whether they did not look on it rather as a toy abounding in childish conventions. If this was their attitude-and the nineteenth century stage would make it forgiveable-it was natural that they should neglect to study the stage themselves, should accept a technique at second-hand, and fail to produce living plays. In a letter to Sidney Colvin Stevenson makes a remark, which might well provide the key to the problem: 'No,' he exclaims, 'I will not write a play for Irving, nor for the devil! Can you not see that the work of falsification which a play demands is of all tasks the most ungrateful? And I have done it a long

while and nothing ever came of it.' If a man regards the technical exigencies of a great craft as falsification we cannot wonder at his failure in it.

It is only in recent years that the literary craftsman has come to regard the drama, after a long estrangement, as the highest and most difficult form of his art, and the happy result of this change of view is that the modern stage play may be what the contemporary play of one hundred years ago seldom was, a readable as well as a practicable piece. On the other hand, we have rediscovered the fact that a play may be written with a literary finish and still be a play. It is also more likely to be a play that will live. Mr. Brander Matthews' observation on this subject, like many truisms, deserves repetition: 'Only literature is permanent.'

Mr. Jones' second corner-stone covers the relations between the drama and morality. Of late, in this sphere, we have made a most encouraging advance. Mr. Shaw's crusade against the false conventions, of course commenced the sanitary destruction of prejudice and cant. Other playwrights followed in this work, and Armageddon completed the task. The theatre is now fairly rid of the false morality that applauded the polite indecencies of the stage, while it labelled as immoral the efforts of the dramatist to deal honestly with the fundamental passions of men and women. In England the censorship is all but gone, and the Lord Chamberlain and Mrs. Grundy have left the stage together-duly chaperoned let us hope-while Blanco Posnet, long outlawed as sinning against the Holy Ghost and domestic morality, is now licensed to be played, and may one day be regarded as the powerful religious tract that it really is. Even in Canada, where false puritanism is not yet extinct, the process of emancipation has proceeded at a feverish pace. It is unfortunately still true that municipal censors will permit the performance of plays, the general effect of which is overwhelmingly evil, so long as the legs of the ladies are adequately encased; but in an appreciable degree our public taste has been purged of prudery. A sufficient evidence of this may be found in a recent article in the organ of a great religious denomination, traditionally not given to a libertine attitude towards amusements, in which the modern theatre was upheld as a 'moral light-house,' and Ibsen's

Ghosts-long suppressed in England-as an example of its beneficent illumination.

In the establishment of the third of Mr. Jones' four 'corner-stones'-the maintenance of right relations between the drama and the sister arts-we may not have succeeded so well. The drama, that is to say, the contemporary drama, during the last century, was, of course, hardly an art at all. It was a form of popular entertainment. And the drama, to most people in Canada, as well as elsewhere, is still simply 'the show.' If 'girl-and-music-plays'-as the technical phrase has it are intended by kindly managers to minister to the needs of the 'Tired Business Man,' it is obviously to be assumed that most of the population are business men, and that all of them are very tired. But there is a reaction against this cynical folly. The movement to recover the stage in the name of art is succeeding. Even in the commercial theatre the drama is being slowly rehabilitated as a fine art-or, in a new sense, as a synthesis of all the arts-while the non-commercial theatre shows the movement in full career. A retrospect of fifteen years will give us ground for hope.

The fourth and last condition that Mr. Jones lays down is the establishment of a proper relationship between author and actor. The achievement of this may well seem impossible. In the English theatre there seems never to have been a reasonable balance between playwright and player; in fact, there has been an age-long feud between the two, in which one has always eclipsed the other. During the golden age of the Elizabethans, there were relatively few actors whose names have survived. The same is true of the Restoration drama. On the other hand, the period that produced the great men, Kean, Kemble, Macready, and that which produced Irving, were barren of great plays. Individual virtuosity to-day has obviously a baneful effect on drama-the play cannot but suffer when it is distorted into a frame for the histrionics of a single actor whose name appears on the posters in letters five times as high as that of the man who 'only wrote the play.' The 'star-system' is still with us—and with a larger proportion of fixed stars than even the heavens can boast-and the profitable 'long-run' prevails, until actor after actor becomes little more than an animated automaton, and play upon play, good or bad,

is exhausted and flung away like a sucked orange. No native drama can arise in Canada, or in any other community, while this system remains unchallenged, and the dramatist is compelled to produce either a safe popular success or nothing. Is there any hope? Perhaps not in the near future, but during the period we are considering-the last fifteen years-the free theatre has been created-or rather introduced in the Englishspeaking world (for it existed elsewhere long before), and the new theatres, where the play is the supreme consideration, and a critical audience is trained to appreciate a changing repertory, have met with enough success, both in the professional and amateur spheres to lend, even on this vexed subject, a note of confidence.

So much for an effort to suggest very briefly that an emin ent critic's indictment of the English-speaking drama, in 1906. is no longer borne out by the facts. Indeed, from the annual volume of excellent plays, written and produced, from the mass of experiment in dramatic production, and above all, from the the awakened popular interest in the theatre, in all its aspects, one can conclude that we are witnessing a genuine dramatic renaissance. The twentieth century may well see the supremacy in the arts return to the drama after too long an absence.

The subject of these notes, we must not forget, is the drama in Canada. It is, of course, almost as easy to be witty about the Canadian drama as about the Canadian navy. They each, at the moment, may seem to represent a well-meaning but rather insignificant effort to complete our national equipment to suggest a pious aspiration rather than reality. The Canadian drama, as a matter of fact, at present represents perhaps no more than twelve or fifteen produced plays. On this slender foundation what can be built? The inquiry has all the romance of an uncharted voyage into unknown seas.

Let us commence with the Canadian theatre. In the theatrical world we are—as I am afraid in some other thingsa province of New York. We take thankfully and with necessary docility the dramatic diet which a group of New York gentlemen, with Old Testament names, choose to send us. Their estimate of our palate is patent to all who read the hoardings. The only reaction against this domination of Broadway is the 'Trans-Canada Theatre' scheme to bring out

« AnkstesnisTęsti »