THE COOKS AND THE GAIETY BROTH.
Punch, October 17, 1906
Scene—A room at the Gaiety Theatre. The time is some weeks prior to the production of “The New Aladdin.” The authors of that piece are gathered in a dense crowd at one end of the room. They are all talking at the same time, and the noise is deafening. Enter Mr. George Edwardes, smiling paternally. His smile changes to a look of consternation as he surveys the excited mob before him. The authors rush towards him in a body, talking and gesticulating.
Mr. Edwardes (deprecatingly). Gentlemen! Gentlemen! (Confused shouting from the multitude.) Gentlemen, this is too much. You are not the Angry Mob in one of Mr. Beerbohm Tree’s productions. You are gifted men of letters. Kindly behave as such.
The Authors (somewhat cowed by this severity). Well, but——
Mr. Edwardes. Well, but what? What’s the trouble?
Mr. Tanner. It’s like this. We——
Mr. Risque. It’s this way. They——
Mr. Adrian Ross. This is the position. Everybody——
Mr. Grossmith. Listen to me. I——
Mr. Greenbank. I can explain in a——
Mr. Edwardes. Stop! Stop! One at a time. One at a time. Tanner! What’s your trouble, Tanner?
Mr. Tanner. It’s like this. We can’t make any headway at all. We’ve been fighting ever since lunch. We——
Mr. Risque. It’s your fault. You’re so unreasonable.
Mr. Greenbank. You’re just as bad.
Mr. Grossmith. I——
Mr. Edwardes. Stop! Stop! Stop! (The noise dies away gradually to a sullen murmur). Now, Tanner?
Mr. Tanner. It’s like this. My idea is that we want something absolutely new—something perfectly fresh.
Mr. Risque. And then you go on to suggest Edmund Payne as a page-boy?
Mr. Grossmith. Why drag in Payne? I——
Mr. Tanner. My idea is—something Gilbertian.
Mr. Risque. Well, you’ve got it, haven’t you? Your stout fairy who nestles in a buttercup is copied from Iolanthe; your genie who has to talk in rhyme comes from The Fairy’s Dilemma; your chorus of policemen from The Pirates of Penzance; and your policeman lost in London from Peter Forth in The Bab Ballads. One would think that that was enough Gilbert for one piece.
Mr. Grossmith. Now I——
Mr. Tanner. What I say is, why not have a plot in the Second Act as well as the First?
All (scornfully). Shame! Shame!
Mr. Edwardes (more in sorrow than in anger). I never thought those words from James Tanner!
[Mr. Tanner blushes, and hangs his head.
Mr. Edwardes (breaking an awkward silence.) Well? Has anybody else any suggestion to make?
Mr. Grossmith. I’ve a notion, George, that you make a mistake in overcrowding your stage. Of course it gives a certain air of liveliness to a scene to have a lot of people about, but the audience soon gets tired of it. What you want is to drop all that, and strike out a new line altogether. Now, how about turning the Second Act into a humorous monologue? I shouldn’t mind doing it. I must get off and change my clothes every now and then, of course; but the orchestra could play ’em a tune or two while I was away. How does that strike you?
Mr. Edwardes (doubtfully). Ye-es. And yet——
Mr. Adrian Ross. The secret of success in musical comedy——
Mr. Edwardes (coldly). I beg your pardon?
Mr. Adrian Ross. The secret of success in musical comedy, to my mind,——
Mr. Edwardes (with frigid politeness). At any other time, my dear fellow, I should be more than glad to listen to your doubtless sound views on that obsolete form of entertainment; but time presses, and we have not yet settled the details of our new—(with icy emphasis)—extravaganza.
[Mr. Adrian Ross starts and colours uncomfortably.
Mr. Greenbank. I say—lyrics. That’s what you want—good lyrics. And (complacently) we’ve got those all right.
Mr. Grossmith (effusively). Thank you, Percy, thank you!
Mr. Tanner (who has been slowly recovering during the preceding remarks). I have a bright idea. Why not try writing the part of a comic foreigner for Robert Nainby?
Mr. Edwardes. Excellent. Do it.
Mr. Grossmith (doubtfully). Must he have a part? It crowds up the stage, you know, it crowds up the stage.
Mr. Tanner. We must have a comic foreigner, you know. It’s the Gaiety.
Mr. Grossmith. Then how about me doubling the part with my own? I should want to get off and change my clothes every now——
Mr. Risque. Something in the Shaw style would be my notion of extravaganza. Leave it to me, and I’ll turn you out another Major Barbara.
Mr. Tanner. Gilbert would be my model, as I have said. You’d much better leave the whole thing to me.
Mr. Grossmith. Tell you what. Don’t either of you Johnnies write anything. Simply let me come on and gag. How would that do?
Mr. Adrian Ross. Why not turn the thing into a concert? Nobody really wants to hear dialogue. What they want is to get on to the songs. I’ll write you a dozen lyrics, and you can dole them out among the company. Then Tanner and Risque could take a holiday. I’m sure they want it. They’re looking quite flushed.
All the Authors (simultaneously). Nonsense! Why—— That’s absurd! I—— Rot! Look here—— And then, you see—— I mean, it’s this way——
Mr. Edwardes (waving his hands agitatedly). Stop! Stop!
All. Sh—h! Sh—h!
Mr. Tanner. Can’t you be quiet, Ross?
Mr. Risque. Do shut up, Grossmith!
Mr. Grossmith. Just for one moment, Tanner.
Mr. Adrian Ross. You talk such a lot, Greenbank. That’s your trouble.
Mr. Greenbank. Risque, Mr. Edwardes is speaking.
Mr. Edwardes. Please listen to me. I see now that I was wrong to let you meet together like this to talk things over. It was a mistake. The only wonder to me is that you are all still alive. What you must do now is to separate, and work apart from one another. Each of you peg away exactly as you think fit, irrespective of the others. Then, when you’ve finished, we’ll lump the whole lot together, and have it acted.
Mr. Tanner. And if the gallery don’t like it, why, they must lump it.
Mr. Edwardes. And boo to the inevitable? Just so.
Unsigned article as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 131 of Punch.