EESE 3/99

Unattributed review of the translation staged at The Theatre Royal, Haymarket, in May 1876

It seems singular, although it is no dougbt indicative of the direction attributed by managers to the taste of the London playgoers of the day, that the novelties which this week call for comment are all performances by foreign players. If we could believe that any of these were likely to make a strong impression, or to secure a firm hold upon their English audiences, we should certainly have to note a remarkable advance towards eclecticism in our taste with regard to the drama; as it is, the several experiments simultaneously made at the Haymarket, Drury Lane, and the Princess's, have achieved results too doubtful to justify any general deductions. The efforts of Madame Janauschek at the Haymarket came last week to a somewhat abrupt conclusion, as it appeared evident that her undeniable powers were unequal to the heavy task imposed upon them by the necessary disadvantages of an actress who, inadequately supported, plays an ill-written piece in a language not her own. For the last two nights she substituted for "Medea" a weak translation of Schiller's "Maria Stuart." Curious as the views of historical English character propounded in this work are, the play might well attain far greater popularity than the gloomy Greek tragedy. When we once get accustomed to the sight of Queen Elizabeth inciting Sir Edward Mortimer to murder the Queen of Scots, and to the notion of a wordy quarrel between the two Queens culminating in feminine recrimination, there is much to be said for the general interest of the play. It is, however, sadly marred by the pretentious weakness of the version employed; and the bombast of the dialogue led more than one of Madame Janauschek's supporters into over-acting of an aggravated order. As the Queen, whose misfortune and beauty formed the chief causes of her fame in after generations, the German tragedienne had unfortunately even more disadvantages to contend with than when she presented to us her striking impersonation of Euripides' awe-inspiring heroine. Her style is too matured and too fixed to admit of great versatility in the portrayal of character; and she cannot realise either for herself or for us the misery of the unhappy Mary when imprisoned at Fotheringhay in any spirit different from that of a Medea's smouldering passion. Fine in themselves, the slowly-elaborated points, the well-weighed emphasis, not of word but of sentence, and the impressive outbursts of graduated passion, fail to make the effect for which we look in a stage-presentation of Elizabeth's wayward. wilful antagonist. There is little spontaneity of emotion, and no indication of that vivacity of temperament which may fairly characterise our conception of Mary's nature. Beyond this, moreover, there are reasons to which it would perhaps be ungracious more particularly to refer, why the Mary Stuart of Madame Janauschek can at best only be a well-meant effort in an ill-chosen direction. If, however, we ae prepared to forget for a moment that the heroine of the play is anything but a deeply-wronged woman, whose resolution to be patient gives way before the ungenerous triumph of her persecutor, we may note in at least one scene, the possession by the actress of marvellous power of invective, and of a robust yet well-trained eloquence, such as is rarely heard upon our stage. Here she held her audience spell-bound by the vigour of her denunciation, and obtained a recall so enthusiastic and so determinedly repeated as to prove that for the moment she had completely conquered her difficulties. The chief feature of the rest of the representation was the successful issue of Miss Carlotta Addison's brave struggle with a part somewhat beyond her powers. She played Elizabeth; and if she could scarcely play it like a Queen, she played it like the jealous-tyrannical woman drawn by the dramatist.

Courtesy of The Theatre Museum, London

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