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"THE MAYOR OF GARRATT."
Examiner, June 30, 1816. The acting of Dowton and Russell, in Major Sturgeon and Jerry Sneak, is well known to our readers ; at least we would advise all those who have not seen it to go and see this perfect exhibition of comic talent. The strut, the bluster, the hollow swaggering, and turkey-cock swell of the Major, and Jerry's meekness, meanness, folly, goodnature, and hen-pecked air, are assuredly done to the life. The latter character is even better than the fornier, which is saying a bold word. Dowton's art is only an imitation of art, of an affected or assumed character ; but in Russell's Jerry you see the very soul of nature, in a fellow that is "pigeon livered and lacks gall,” laid open and anatomised. You can see that his heart is no bigger than a pin, and his head as soft as a pippin. His whole aspect is chilled and frightened as if he had been dipped in a pond, and yet he looks as if he would like to be snug and comfortable, if he durst. He smiles as if he would be friends with you upon any terms, and the tears come in his eyes because you will not let him. The tones of his voice are prophetic as the cuckoo's under-song. His words are made of watergruel. The scene in which he tries to make a confidant of the Major is great; and his song of “Robinson Crusoe" as melancholy as the island itself. The reconciliation scene with his wife, and his exclamation over her, “To think that I should make my Molly veep," are pathetic, if the last stage of human infirmity is so. This farce appears to us to be both moral and entertaining ; yet it does not take. It is considered as an unjust satire on the city and the country at large, and there is a very frequent repetition of the word "nonsense" in the house during the performance. Mr. Dowton was even hissed, either from the upper boxes or gallery, in his speech recounting the marching of his corps "from Brentford to Ealing, and from Ealing to Acton ;” and several persons in the pit, who thought the whole low, were for going out. This shows well for the progress of civilisation. We suppose the manners described in the Mayor of Garratt have in the last forty years become obsolete, and the characters ideal ; we have no longer either hen-pecked or brutal husbands, or domineering wives; the Miss Molly Jollops no longer wed Jerry Sneaks, or admire the brave Major Sturgeons on the other side of Temple Bar ; all our soldiers have become heroes, and our magistrates respectable, and the farce of life is o'er !
« THE DISTRESSED MOTHER.”
Examiner, September 22, 1816. A MR. MACREADY appeared at Covent Garden Theatre on Monday and Friday, in the character of Orestes in the Distressed Mother, a bad play for the display of his powers, in which, however, he succeeded in making a decidedly favourable impression upon the audience. His voice is powerful in the highest degree, and at the same time possesses great harmony and modulation. His face is not equally calculated for the stage. He declaims better than anybody we have lately heard. He is accused of being violent, and of wanting pathos. Neither of these objections is true. His manner of delivering the first speeches in this play was admirable, and the want of increasing interest afterwards was the fault of the author rather than the actor. The fine suppressed tone in which he assented to Pyrrhus's command to convey the message to Hermione was a test of his variety of power, and brought down repeated acclamations from the house. We do not lay much stress on his mad scene, though that was very good in its kind, for mad scenes do not occur very often, and, when they do, had in general better be omitted. We have not the slightest hesitation in saying that Mr. Macready is by far the best tragic actor that has come out in our remembrance, with the exception of Mr. Kean. We, however, heartily wish him well out of this character of Orestes. It is a kind of forlorn hope in tragedy. There is nothing to be made of it on the English stage beyond experiment. It is a trial, not a triumph. These French plays puzzle an English audience exceedingly. They cannot attend to the actor, for the difficulty they have in understanding the author. We think it wrong in any actor of great merit (which we hold Mr. Macready to be) to come out in an ambiguous character, to salve his reputation. An actor is like a man who throws himself from the top of a steeple by a rope. He should choose the highest steeple he can find, that, if he does not succeed in coming safe to the ground, he may break his neck at once, and so put himself and the spectators out of farther pain.
Ambrose Phillips's Distressed Mother is a very good translation from Racine's Andromache. It is an alternation of topics, of pros and cons, on the casuistry of domestic and state affairs, and produced a great effect of ennui on the audience. When you hear one of the speeches in these rhetorical tragedies, you know as well what will be the answer to it, as when you see the tide coming up the river-you know that it will return again. The other actors filled their parts with successful mediocrity.
We highly disapprove of the dresses worn on this occasion, and supposed to be the exact Greek costume. We do not know that the Greek heroes were dressed like women, or wore their long hair straight down their backs. Or even supposing that they did, this is not generally known or understood by the audience; and though the preservation of the ancient costume is a good thing, it is of more importance not to shock our present prejudices. The managers of Covent Garden are not the Society of Antiquaries. The attention to costume is only necessary to preserve probability ; in the present instance, it could only violate it, because there is nothing to lead the public opinion to expect such an exhibition. We know how the Turks are dressed, from seeing them in the streets; we know the costume of the Greek statues, from seeing casts in the shop windows; we know that savages go naked, from reading voyages and travels ; but we do not know that the Grecian chiefs at the Siege of Troy were dressed as Mr. Charles Kemble, Mr. Abbott, and Mr. Macready were the other evening in the Distressed Mother. It is a discovery of the managers, and they should have kept their secret to themselves. The epithet in Homer, applied to the Grecian warriors, vápn kopówvtes, is not any proof. It signifies, not long-haired, but literally bushy-headed, which would come nearer to the common Brutus head than this long dangling slip of hair. The oldest and most authentic models we have are the Elgin Marbles, and it is certain the Theseus is a crop. One would think this standard might satisfy the Committee of Managers in point of classical antiquity. But no such thing. They are much deeper in Greek costume and the history of the fabulous ages, than those old-fashioned fellows, the Sculptors who lived in the time
MR. MACREADY'S MENTEVOLE.
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Examiner, October 6, 1816. MR. MACREADY's Mentevole, in the Italian Lover, is very highly spoken of. We only saw the last act of it, but it appeared to us to be very fine in its kind. It was natural, easy, and forcible. Indeed, we suspect some parts of it were too natural, that is, that Mr. Macready thought too much of what his feelings might dictate in such circumstances, rather than of what the circumstances must have dictated to him to do. We allude particularly to the half-significant, half-hysterical laugh, and distorted jocular leer, with his eyes towards the persons accusing him of the murder, when the evidence of his guilt comes out. Either the author did not intend him to behave in this manner, or he must have made the other parties on the stage interrupt him as a self-convicted criminal. His appeal to Manoah (the witness against him) to suppress the proofs which must be fatal to his honour and his life, was truly affecting. His resumption of a spirit of defiance was not sufficiently dignified, and was more like the selfsufficient swaggering airs of comedy, than the real grandeur of tragedy, which should always proceed from passion. Mr. Macready sometimes, to express uneasiness and agitation, composes his cravat, as he would in a drawing
This is, we think, neither graceful nor natural in extraordinary situations. His tones are equally powerful and flexible, varying with the greatest facility from the lowest to the highest pitch of the human voice.
MR. MACREADY'S OTHELLO.
Examiner, October 13, 1816. We have to speak this week of Mr. Macready's Othello,