The Echo (London), December 13, 1902
A DRAMA OF TO-MORROW
BY P. G. WODEHOUSE.
“If,” said the dramatist, solemnly, “I can get a manager to produce the play I completed last night, my fortune is made.”
I said, “Oh! was it so very good?”
“No,” he said, “it is not good, but it is what the public want. My play is called ‘Cuffs and Collars.’ You may have noticed that the more scope a play gives for dress, the better the public likes it. ‘Cuffs and Collars’ is nothing but dress. My heroine, Millicent Mayflower, is loved by two men, Jasper Jones (bad) and Cyril Trevelyan (good). As the curtain rises and the story begins to unfold, it is seen that at present the latter holds the upper hand, the betting being, estimated roughly, about seven to two against Jones. Cyril is engaged to Millicent, whose love he has won by his faultless costume and the polished grace of his footgear. But the laws of the drama decree that in every play the villain shall be allowed his fling, and mine is no exception. In the last scene of Act I.—a very powerful bit of writing—Jones calls on Millicent. He begs her to prepare herself for a shock, and then describes how he has seen Cyril walking in broad daylight down Bond-street dressed (and here the orchestra will glide gently into soft music) in a frock-coat, tweed trousers, and a straw hat. Millicent faints. Jones smiles fiendishly and lights a cigarette (l.c.). Quick curtain on this intensely dramatic situation.
“Act II. is conventional. Cyril, dismissed by Millicent (of course, without an explanation), goes to South Africa. There he wins the V.C. for saving the life of an Imperial Yeoman under circumstances of extreme bravery—I thought I might bring in a patriotic song somewhere in this scene—and returns to England, unknown to his friends. Millicent meanwhile has become engaged to Jasper. His waistcoat covers, as she knows, a black heart, but its cut is beyond reproach, and she feels that, while a black heart is not everything, a perfect waistcoat is. Act II. ends with an announcement that a new society entertainer has come to town, a celebrated hypnotist. Arrangements are made with him to give an entertainment at Lady Mayflower’s house that day week. Curtain.
“Act III. is tremendous. In scene one a man calls on Jones, and reveals himself as one of his numerous victims. Some years before he had invested his all in one of the companies which it is Jones’s chief joy to promote. He lost everything. He requests Jones to refund the same at as early a date as possible. Brisk dialogue. In the end, Jones regrets that his visitor has no more money to lose, and dismisses him with contumely. The man goes out breathing threats. Jasper smiles fiendishly, and lights cigarette (l.c.).
“Scene 2 is laid in Lady Mayflower’s drawing-room. The hypnotist is giving his entertainment. Though disguised by a thick beard, the audience will easily recognise in him Jones’s visitor of the previous night, and when Jones himself puts in an appearance, they settle themselves in their seats, and prepare for excitement. Nor are they disappointed. Fixing Jones with a magnetic eye, the hypnotist bids him come forward, and be experimented upon. Jones cannot resist that eye.
The Great Moment of the Play.
“He comes on to the platform, and then we reach the great moment of the play. After inducing him to eat a pound and a half of tallow candles, stand on his head, and sign a cheque for £10,000 payable to bearer, the hypnotist comes forward and addresses the audience. He tells them how Jones ruined him. All hiss. He goes on to mention how Cyril saved his life in South Africa—yes, of course, he was the Imperial Yeoman: what did you think?—and gives full details. All cheer. Finally, turning to Jones, he commands him in a stern, relentless voice to remove his coat and waistcoat. Jones, unable to refuse, flings off both garments, and the horror-stricken audience see with inexpressible emotion that beneath his waistcoat he is wearing a flannel shirt, imitation cuffs, and a paper shirt-front. Millicent screams, flings her engagement ring from her, and falls into the arms of Cyril, who has entered unobserved with definite proofs in his possession that Jones’s statement in Act I. was a slander. At the same moment the hypnotist makes a few passes, and Jones recovers. His look of horror, despair, and hate on seeing the £10,000 cheque in the possession of the hypnotist, Millicent in the arms of Cyril, and himself in a state of deshabille, is so intense that, in the hands of a capable actor it will fill the theatre for hundreds of nights. Book early to avoid disappointment.”