The World, October 2, 1906
THE FLOWING TIDE.
Scene: The smoking-room of the Legitimates’ Club. There are present Mr. Beerbohm Tree, Mr. George Alexander, Sir Charles Wyndham, Mr. H. B. Irving, Mr. Oscar Ashe, Mr. Lewis Waller, and Mr. Martin Harvey. They are looking serious.
Mr. Tree. Are we all here? Glad you fellows got my notes. (The door opens.) Ah, come in, Cyril. Now we’re complete.
Mr. Cyril Maude. Hullo! Good house. What’s the matter?
Mr. Tree. I have ventured to ask you all here together, in order that we might discuss the problem of musical comedy. The question before the meeting is—what’s to be done about it ?
Mr. Waller. They said it was dead. Dead! Five running now, and about sixteen expected shortly!
Mr. Martin Harvey. It’s too much.
Mr. Tree. Not for the public. Which brings me to my point. I have seen it coming for a long time, and now it’s come. We are faced by the horrid fact that the public will not go to see anything except musical farce.
Mr. Alexander (protestingly). Oh, come. My house is in order, at any rate. And, conversely, there are no orders in my house.
Mr. Tree (pityingly). Dear old boy, don’t deceive yourself. It isn’t your play they’re rushing to see. It’s——
Mr. Alexander My acting? Really, that’s awfully kind of you, Tree. I mean——
Mr. Tree (waving a languid hand). Nor your acting, fine as it is. It’s simply your collars. People have read in the papers that you now wear flannel next your neck, and they want to see it done. That’s all. They don’t care a button for Pinero.
Mr. Maude. Or a pin for Nero, eh? Still, dash it all, Tree, you did all right with that. How do you account for it?
Mr. Tree (sadly). The same reason, Cyril—the same reason. Curiosity, nothing but curiosity. They wanted to see how I looked with my knees covered up. No, we must face the truth, bitter though it be. Shall we take to musical comedy, or give up the stage altogether?
Mr. Maude (hopefully). Take to musical comedy? Well, I don’t know. Of course, I did sing a song in The Second in Command. Off, you know. At least, it was really sung by a super; but it was supposed to be me. I might do something in musical comedy.
Mr. H. B. Irving. Besides, one needn’t sing. Huntley doesn’t.
Mr. Oscar Ashe. Yes, he does. They made even him do it. He had a song about rabbits in Mr. Popple.
All (dismayed). Oh, I say!
Sir Charles Wyndham. You know, it’s not a bad idea, this taking to musical pieces. Hicks is uncommonly like me. I might do Hicks’s parts. I was in at the Aldwych the other night, and he got six encores to a song about Chamberlain. Rather jolly, being encored.
Mr. Martin Harvey (gloomily). They never encored my big speech in The Only Way. Applauded, yes; but not encored.
Mr. Tree. I was half thinking, do you know, of getting Alfred Austin to do a lyric or two for The Winter’s Tale. Easily work them in somewhere.
Mr. Martin Harvey. If I let myself go, I could be just as funny as George Graves.
Mr. Tree. If ever I do anything in that line it will be a dance. After a course of Swedish exercises I’m certain I could manage the Sinden style of thing. At any moment in Nero I might have broken into a double-shuffle.
Mr. Irving. When I was playing the Admirable Crichton it was with the greatest difficulty that I could restrain myself from joining in the dance in the island scene.
Mr. Martin Harvey. I once had twelve lessons at waltzing, but I’m no real use at it. After all, one needn’t dance. Rutland Barrington doesn’t.
Mr. Tree. Yes, he does, in Amasis.
All (blankly). Oh, dash!
Mr. Tree. Yes, there is no evading it. We must both sing and dance.
Mr. Oscar Ashe. Have you chaps ever seen me do the Maxixe? I’ve a jolly good mind to have a dash at it between the acts of Tristram and Iseult. In front of the curtain, you know.
Mr. Tree. I am glad to see this cheerful and resolute spirit. We will not be beaten out of the field. We will fight these musical comedians with their own weapons. I’ll put on Hamlet, with songs and gags, and a big knockabout scene for me and the Ghost.
Mr. Maude. There ought to be material for a pyjama song in Toddles.
Mr. Oscar Ashe. There’s just time, if we start at once, to knock out the plot of Tristram and Iseult, bring it up to date, and put in some bright numbers and lots of funny business. I’ll do it.
Mr. Waller. I didn’t like to tell you before, but the fact is I had already arranged to sing a song in my new piece, Robin Hood. I shall turn it into a topical number with full chorus.
Mr. Alexander. I wonder if Pinero would write me a few lyrics.
Mr. Tree. Excellent. This is indeed the right spirit. They may harass us. They may cut into our public. They may try to put us on the shelf. But to what purpose? Are we downhearted?
All (enthusiastically). No!
p. g. wodehouse.