||SIX LONDON PLAYS by Vera I. Arlett and H.F. Rubinstein. Gollancz (1950) pp192 h/b (d/w worn)
||The six one-act plays collected in this volume illustrate, in a sequence of historical episodes which range from the ninth to the "post-war" twentieth century, a kind of natural charity and tolerance associated with the inhabitants of London from remotest times. King Alfred the Great may be said to have established the precedent when, after defeating the Danes, he allowed them to settle in a village later known as Aldwych. The first of these plays, Hamlet in Aldwych, describes a dramatic encounter outside the original church of St. Clements Danes, between the Christian King and the historical Prince of Denmark, who has landed on a sinister mission to woo the king's daughter, as vaguely recorded in ancient Sagas.
Thus, for the large number of people who read plays, a single theme gives unity to this delightful and humane volume. But it will also be of great value for the dramatic societies which cater for a serious-minded public that is bringing increasing strength and vitality to the amateur dramatic movement in all English-speaking countries. Such societies will find these plays ideal for their purpose, for each is a separate and act-worthy entitiy; each has for its theme some historical episode connected with the great city that is still regarded as the heart of the British Commonwealth; and each has as protagonist some figure dear and familiar to everyone who has grown up as a member of that Commonwealth
|The spiritual influence of London is next reflected, in Poets and Peasants, through Geoffrey Chaucer and the mysterious author of Piers Plowman, shown as contrasting types against an exciting plot provided by Wat Tyler's invasion of the City in 1381. The succeeding play, Incident in a Fire, transports us into the household of Samuel Pepys, where Cockney kindness is shown at work, sublimating fanaticism, at a climax of the Great Fire in 1666. The fourth piece, Blake's Comforter, introduces us to William Blake, immersed in his last pictures and writings, shortly before his death (in 1827) at Fountain Court, Strand; tended by an angel-wife, he is cheered by the visit of a little girl of the neighbourhood, whose plight inspires him to express, with moving effect, his mystical identification of London with Jerusalem. We next jump to Golden Jubilee Year (1887) and a children's party in South Kensington. W.S.Gilbert, about to assume the role of a conjuror, quarrels violently with Sir Arthur Sullivan over the plot for one of those comic-operas now "all the rage" in a London blissfully unconscious of the crises and catastrophes of which its children will live to encounter the full force . Ominous hints, foreshadowing a transformation of the comfortable Victorian scene, give point to the play (Words by Mr. Gilbert). In Post War, the final play of the series, some typical survivors of the London "Blitz", in trying to cope with an escaped German prisoner, come to understand the meaning of reconciliation, and learn how to build for the future.