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LITERARY AND OTHER. NOTES.

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LITERARY AND OTHER. NOTES. By NORIOK. I had looked forward with a very great deal of interest to the presentation at the Court Theatre of what had been described as a "purely Welsh play of wonderful dramatic power," and I need hardly tell those readers of the LONDON KELT who saw the play that I was sorely disappointed. To my mind, and it is time that the full truth be told, it is particularly unfortunate that those responsible for this week of Celtic drama, at a West End theatre, should have deemed it wise to stage such a feeble and invertebrate a piece of work. Let us hope that they had never seen nor heard it before this occasion. In the first place, what we witnessed last Saturday, at the Court Theatre, could by no stretch of the imagination be regarded as a "play." It lacked, from beginning to end, the first perquisite of all drama-a strong human motive. No attempt was made during the whole piece to reveal any unified play of human desires and human passions. When I first heard the beautiful language of my homeland on a London stage, I felt a thrill of delight pass through my veins-but that was the first and last sensation of pleasure I experienced during the whole performance. It is, no doubt, quite true that the eight scenes of the play consisted of eight tolerably interesting sketches of Welsh life, but, surely, that is no justification for the absurdity of placing such work on the stage. Readiings from Rhys Lewis, illustrated by lantern sketches," would have been far more appropriate. x There was, of course, an occasional lapse into quite brilliant monologue, as in the cases of Wil Bryan and Tomos Bartley. One could not easily fail to find this in an adapta- tion of Daniel Owen's work. It was a sad thing to find the force of these alleviating touches completely lost through the ludi- crousness of the "dramatic sense," both of the dramatist and his actors. It may be well to remind our readers of some of these absurdities. One of the most interesting scenes was that in which Mari Lewis, her son Rhys, her friends, Marged Pitars and Wil Bryan, were all gathered together in the little cottage to welcome Bob on his return from the county jail. It was a moment when the audience could have been swayed by a revelation of a mother's passion, with its terrible tenderness for a martyred son, and its infinite powers of hate and contempt for those who had snatched him away from her bosom. And the very thought of the dramatic possibilities of the meeting between such a mother as Mari Lewis, and such a son as Bob, into whose souls the iron had entered so deeply, makes one's head reel. And yet, on the Court Stage, Mari Lewis kept standing for half-an-hour on one square foot of ground, aimlessly swaying a broom with the regularity of a pendulum, and holding conference with Wil Bryan in the tone of voice of a Park Lane lady's maid. It was with difficulty that I refrained from actual violence when Bob romped into the room and behaved like a drunken tailor. That was one of the crimes of the per- formance. One found scores of smaller sins scattered everywhere. For instance, during the very scene to which we have referred already, Mari Lewis desires to give Bob a treat on his return, so she sends Rhys to the village depot to make the necessary C> purchases. He is able to return from the shop in less than two minutes He and Wil Bryan, a little later in the same scene, pay two visits to the station to meet two different trains travelling in the same direction, and return both times with dis- appointing news-all in four minutes The idea of an "unity of construction," we are sure, never entered the author's mind, and, if there was present at the theatre any- one who had never read Rhys Lewis, the whole play must have been absolutely un- intelligible to him. Surely some kind of story should have been told on that stage. We know that Rhys Lewis is a book pre- senting great difficulties of dramatisation, but we have seen better attempts made than this, though only designed for simple village entertainments. We have only praise, however, for those responsible for the idea of a week of Celtic drama. Very few will ever know the work and worry it must have cost the secretaries, Miss Connor and Mr. John. We hope the venture will be repeated, and as far as the Welsh play is concerned, meet with better success and more extensive support. Will Wales ever produce a drama, a truly national drama, is a question which must be answered in this generation. I remember reading in one of Mr. W. B. Yeats' articles in the Dome, a long time ago, the following significant words-" The days of the drama are brief and come but seldom. It has one day when the emotions of cities still re- member the emotions of sailors and husband- men and shepherds and users of the spear and the bow; as the houses and furniture and earthen vessels of cities, before the coming of machinery remember the rocks and the woods and the hillside and it has another day when thought and scholarship discover their desire." We in Wales to-day stand in the pale grey dawn of this second day. Young men and young women utter cries of joy at dis- covering in the new learning the allurements of the old traditions and the old emotions. Wales has loved and lost" for centuries, and the value of her passion is now being revealed to her. Soon, very soon, her life will be her own again. Such a moment is always the moment of the birth of a great art. Literature and music at such a moment become transformed because the soul of a nation calls them to be her angels-but it will be above man's power to rule and to guide the great awakening. We stand in great danger of losing sight of this truth. Comparison is more dangerous than odious. I have heard it said that all great national revivals produce great dramas and there seems to be some truth in the statement. Scandinavia was shaken to its foundations between 1840 and 1860, by a great national awakening, and Europe was given an Ibsen, as the fruit of the wild enthusiasm for home and country with their traditions. But it is generally forgotten that the Scandinavian national awakening was asserting itself chiefly in other depart- ments of literature until Ibsen brought his tremendous power to bear upon it-Bjorn- son's work to wit. Dr. Herford emphasises this fact when he says that "the extraordi- nary vogue of the Norwegian drama must be attributed to the simple fact that a dramatist of extraordinary power happened to be born in Norway "-and it may well be added-at the right moment. It is not true, as some Welsh literateurs will have us believe, that all national revivals are attended by the production of a great drama, though it may be true that great dramas are only produced at those-moments when the enthusiasms of nations burst into flame. sjf: It should be remembered that there are almost overwhelming difficulties in Wales for the production of a national drama. We have no Welsh city-nor, in the strict sense of the word, have we any Welsh Society. Ireland has its Dublin, a city intensely and passionately Irish, in spite of the Castle. Norway had its Bergen, and the Nationalists sacked and took Christiania. The England of Shakespeare had its London, and the Greece of Sophocles and iEschylus its Athens. We in Wales have a Cardiff," but that city is not ours. And, as Schlegel pointed out years ago, a drama is a plant which only grows in a city with a compli- cated Society. One word more. It may be that the last two hundred years have killed not only our powers for producing a drama, but also our capabilities of stage appreciation. In Catholic Wales, there was one attempt at drama, but it died for ever with the rise of Noncon- formity. It may be, however, that Ibsen's words shall be proved true of Wales some day. Never fear, the twilight of the gods will come to an end, a new day is dawning behind yonder hill; and you shall yet see that daylight can burn the rotten lumber of the past; you shall yet see that beyond the Valhalla rises the New Heaven." Some day I shall return to this subject elsewhere.

The Welsh Club.

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