The Starlight Express

The Starlight Express

Daddy .............. O. B. Clarence

Mother ............. Ruth Maitland

Grannie ............ Una O'Connor

Jimbo ............... Ronald Hammond

Monkey ............ Elsie Hall

Jane Anne ........ Mercia Cameron

Cousin Henry .... Owen Roughwood

Mme Jequier ..... Juliette Mylo

Miss Waghorn ... Mary Barton

Tramp ............... Charles Mott

It would be uncandid to pretend that Mr. ALGERNON BLACKWOOD gets everything he has to say in The Starlight Express safely across the footlights - those fateful barriers that trap so many excellent intentions. But he so evidently has something to say, and the saying is so gallantly attempted, that he must emphatically be credited with something done - something well done really. The little play has beautiful moments - and that is to say a great deal. The novelist turned playwright wishes to make you see that "the Earth's forgotten it's a Star". In plainer words he wants to present you with a cure for "wumbledness": people who look at the black side of things, who think chiefly of themselves - those are the wumbled. The cure is stardust - which is sympathy. The treatment was discovered by the children of a poor author in a cheap Swiss pension and by "Cousin Henry" a successful business man of quite an unusual sort. You have to get out into the cave where the starlight is stored, gather it - with the help of the Organ Grinder, who loves all children and sings his cheery way to the stars; and the Gardener who makes good things grow and picks up all the weeds; and the Lamplighter who lights up heads and hearts and stars impartially; and the Sweep, who sweeps away all blacks and blues over the edge of the world; and the Dustman, with his sack of Dream Dust that is Star Dust (or isn't it?) and so forth. Then you sprinkle the precious stuff on people and they become miracles of content and unselfishness (The fact that life isn't in the very least like that is a thing you have just got to make yourself forget for three hours or so). The author was well served by his associates. SIR EDWARD ELGAR wove a delightfully patterned music of mysterious import through the queer tangle of the scenes and gave us an atmosphere loaded with the finest stardust. Lighting and setting were admirably contrived; and the grouping of the little prologue scenes, where that kindly handsome giant of an organ-grinder (MR. CHARLES MOTT), with the superbly cut corduroys, sang so tunefully to as sweet a flock of little maids as one would wish to see, was particularly effective. Of the players I would especially commend the delicately sensitive performance of MISS MERCIA CAMERON (a name and talent quite new to me) as Jane Anne, the chief opponent of wumbledom. She was, I think, responsible more than any other for getting some of the mystery of the authentic Blackwood craft across to the audience. The jolly spontaneity of RONALD HAMMOND as young Bimbo was a pleasant thing, and ELSIE HALL, concealing less successfully her careful training in the part, prettily co-operated as his sister Monkey. The part of Daddy, the congested author who was either "going to light the world or burst" was in O. B. CLARENCE'S clever sympathetic hands. MR OWEN ROUGHWOOD gave you a sense of his belief in the efficacy of stardust. On what a difficult rail our author was occasionally driving his express you may judge, when he makes this excellent but not particularly fragile British type exclaim "I am melting down in dew". The flippant hearer has always to be inhibiting irreverent speculations occasioned by such speeches. I couldn't guess if the children in the audience liked it. I hope they didn't feel they had been spoofed, as MAETERLINCK so basely spoofed them in The Blue Bird, by offering them a grown-up's play "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought". But the bigger children gave the piece a good welcome and called and acclaimed the shrinking author.

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