"IN THE RANKS"
The first theatrical performance in the Queen's Jubilee Hall took place on Saturday evening last, when that remarkable production of MR. PETTIT and MR. SIMS called "In the Ranks" was put on the boards by MESSRS. MILLER and ELLISTON's London Company. The enterprise of the managers of the handsome new Hall, and the thoroughly efficient advertising and general preparation gave evidence of coming success, but we venture to say that even the managers themselves must have been surprised at the magnificent house that gathered for the opening performance.
Long before the time announced for opening, a crowd was anxiously waiting admittance to the Hall, and their number momentarily increased. When the doors were at length opened, the rush was so great that it required almost superhuman efforts on the part of the door-keepers to control the entrants, but by dint of patience and a fearful amount of squeezing, a thousand or two got inside, and the ingress became much easier.
The drop scene and orchestral arrangements were of course the first objects of criticism, and the remarks we heard of them were on the whole of a kind that would gratify MESSRS. WOOD and CLARK. The "pit" however should in our opinion be more divided from the orchestra stall, as a crowd of youths kept leaning over close to the musicians, and we opine their near proximity would not add to the charms of the music. Smoking, too, should be more rigourously forbidden inside the hall.
Of the splendid piece played on Saturday evening, and which is to be played again each evening this week - we say emphatically that nothing like it has hitherto been put before a Workington audience. It was, in the first place, good in itself, full of human nature, of good strong hits, of wholesome teaching, and the most fastidious critic could not say that a line of the whole piece is "low". The incident where the child shews her faith in poor DRAYTON and kissed him in spite of the world, is very powerful and will bear reflection. So is that where COLONEL WYNTER tells DRAYTON his dead mother's story, and DRAYTON's acting at the juncture is sublime. The incident also, where the honest workman is refused aid because he has NOT been in prison, is not without its lessons, and should put the patrons of the Society for the Relief of Discharged Prisoners to the trouble of a little thought.
But we will not here enter into the piece, we give details below. We wish to state here, however, that we consider it is the duty of the people of Workington to patronize a company like this, for sound reasons which we will give. Bringing a company of this high-class character to our town is highly beneficial to trade. It will tend to keep at home the large number of persons who for the past two or three years have been running to Carlisle and Whitehaven every fortnight end to attend a Theatre. It will bring money into the town instead of sending it out, and the idea of trips this week from neighbouring towns is a good one, worthy of following up all through the winter. We hope the local railway companies will extend all the facilities they can, and try to make our district busy and alive as it ought to be.
We are so pleased to find one single attempt made to bring people to Workington to see something that we run out this "Special Edition" entirely to compliment to the Managers of the Jubilee Hall and to the "In the Ranks" Company, and we heartily wish them bumper houses every night this week. For an outline of the piece and descriptive criticism see below.
**Outline of the piece and descriptive criticism follows in Part B)**
"In the Ranks" has a complicated story - too complicated to be explained fully in the brief space of the present notice, even were it fair to do so. It is the story of the conflict between NED DRAYTON and GIDEON BLAKE. It opens in the Woodside Farm, where everyone is happy and busy in the preparations for the morrow's wedding. For NED is to marry RUTH HERRICK, the daughter of Farmer HERRICK, and the prettiest girl in the village. Then GIDEON BLAKE comes on the scene, and with him trouble.
He, too, would have married RUTH; and he seeks in villiany some consolation for his disappointment. DRAYTON is the adopted son of COLONEL WYNTER, a choleric Indian officer, who in this opening scene, tells NED that once his mother was his own sweetheart; that she jilted him for another man; that her husband became a forger and an outlaw; and that, his mother dying in poverty and despair, NED had ever since been cherished by the faithful colonel.
This fiery yet soft-hearted warrior has his plans for NED, and they are that he shall inherit all his money and marry his niece. But NED vows allegiance to RUTH, the Colonel fumes and raves, GIDEON BLAKE, blandly smiling, enters at the door, and the Colonel turns his back upon the recalcitrant hero, in order that he may countenance the insinuating villain. Then the plot begins to thicken.
A man, terribly dirty, drunken, and decrepit, hobbles in to do his share of mischief. He is, he says, NED DRAYTON's father, the outlawed criminal, and he brings a letter written by his wife in her dying hours, to prove his story. Horror-stricken by the shame and disgrace, NED yields to the wretched man's appeal for money, and hastens to the wood at night with the price of silence. But black work has preceded him. A gang of poachers have been out in the wood; the COLONEL's agent, BLAKE, and his men are on their track. The Colonel, too, is there, and meets the wretched outlaw, as he waits beneath the shadow of the trees.
He knows him, and accosts him - not as JOHN DRAYTON, but as the companion of that unhappy man, a scoundrel known as BELTON. This it appears is his true title; he had stolen the dying woman's letter from her husband's corpse. To preserve his secret, the desperate man shoots COLONEL WYNTER, who falls among the bushes. Just then amid the shots of the poachers echoing around, FRED hurrys up and gives the man his money. BELTON turns to go, is seized by BLAKE, and yet escapes - and thus the curtain falls on the first act.
Need the story be followed further than to indicate the final direction? It is not fitting that we should do more than say that the COLONEL is found still living, but dangerously hurt; that NED is arrested for a share in the crime as he leaves the village church with his bride on his arm; that he is set free at length, but is scorned and shunned; that in sheer despair he takes the shilling, and goes to serve his country; that his wife is meanwhile exposed to the insults and attentions of the scoundrel BLAKE, and the extortions of the vile old man who passes as NED's father; and that finally, after many stirring scenes and powerful situations, the true and the loving are re-united, and the villanous brought to the dust.
The company which MESSRS. MILLER and ELLISTON have organised for the performance of this play is, as we have already stated, one of high excellence. So good a company has not been seen here before.
NED DRAYTON is played by MR. A. CLIFTON ALDERSON, who makes of the character as noble and as manly a hero as melodramatic author could desire. Playing with singular ease and freedom, he never exaggerates a single point, never overdraws a situation. His hero is a hero, and no mere posturing puppet. In the light passages in the early scenes he is unaffectedly gay and mirthful; and as troubles thicken over him, and his life grows dark and hard, he draws with great power the picture of a strong, brave man struggling with heavy odds.
MISS NELLIE LAWRANCE, as RUTH HERRICK, his wife, makes a charming heroine, full of grace and gaiety; but possessing, withal, in sterner situations, dramatic qualities of high order. The GIDEON BLAKE of MR. HARRY McCLELLAND is an admirable performance. The part of his accomplice in vice, the returned criminal, is perhaps the most powerful piece of acting in the play. MR. FRANK VINCENT, admirably made up, brings before the audience a remarkable picture of broken down viciousness; and realizes the character of the miserable wretch with startling vividness. It ought to be pointed out, however, that in the garret scene he sometimes spoils the completeness of his performance by allowing the drunkenness and decrepitude to lapse entirely for a time. In a part like this, consistency is everything.
Space is insufficient for a detailed account of the other performances, many of them very admirable. But MR. BRIAN McCULLOUGH's JOE BUZZARD is played with rich and acceptable humour, and proves the versatility and power of the actor. MR. HARMER's Farmer HERRICK, MR. ALDIN's COLONEL WYNTER, MISS EMMA HEFFER's MRS. BUZZARD, MISS NELLIE NELSON's BARBARA HERRICK, and MR. J. HOLLIS', CAPTAIN HOLCRAFT are alike good, though a little more life and spirit would improve the last named actor's performance. Each of the minor parts is capably sustained.
The scenery is entirely new, and several admirable mechanical changes are made most effectively. The piece will be repeated each night this week. If there is any appreciation of excellent performance among local playgoers, there will be crowded houses on each occasion.
After the curtain fell on the third act on Saturday evening, MR. JOSEPH WOOD came to the front and said: -
Ladies and Gentlemen, - On Behalf of the Management I thank you all very much for the splendid support you have given us to-night. If you come in thousands like this, we can and will bring the best London Companies travelling. The Theatre is complete in every respect with the latest improvements, but I wish most particularly to mention that Smoking inside the Hall is strictly prohibited. I do hope you will assist the management in this matter, and if any wish to smoke they can do so on the staircases or in the corridors outside. Ladies and Gentlemen, the crush to-night was far beyond our expectations, but we will take especial care to arrange for this in future, and I would suggest that all Circle tickets be booked at MR. SHERWOOD's (at entrance to Hall) in advance, when seats will be reserved. Ladies and Gentlemen, MR. CLARK, my partner in the management also thanks you, and we shall spare no effort on our part to secure for your pleasure and entertainment the very best London Companies.