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Henry Ainley in The Great Conspiracy, Duke of York’s Theatre, London, 1907

August 15, 2014

Henry Ainley as he appeared as Captain Roger Crisenoy opposite Irene Vanbrugh‘s Jeanne de Briantes in Madeleine Lucette Ryley‘s drama, The Great Conspiracy, which was produced at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, on 4 March 1907. The piece ran for 60 performances.
(photo: Alfred Ellis & Walery, London, 1907)

‘A play with an idea no fresher than that of a young girl’s outwitting of Napoleon – a play, in fact, with the plot and the sort of Bonaparte that have already served in musical comedy, yet a neat, well-planned if artificial piece that is as full of excitement as it is of improbabilities, and, for all its lack of true emotion, gives its three principal interpreters at the Duke of York’s fine opportunities for acting – as is The Great Conspiracy. Mrs. Ryley’s adaptation of M. Pierre Berton‘s Belle Marseillaise. The conspiracy in question, planned by the young heroine’s elderly husband, is one that fails, but the chief conspirator escapes, and Napoleon tries vainly to wrest from the wife the secret of her husband’s safety. Finally he hits on the device of marrying her afresh to a favourite young Captain of his who is infatuated with her, and with whom she, in turn, is in love. Her long colloquy with Napoleon, and the bridal scene, in which she explains to her lover the obstacle that stands in the way of their felicity, make the play. Yet it is the three chief players that make the success of the piece – Miss Irene Vanbrugh, who is alternately arch and tender, and has, in the bridal scene already mention, a moment of exquisite pathos; Mr. John Hare, a very slim and frigid Napoleon, yet authoritative, masterful, and grim; and Mr. Henry Ainley, surely the most attractive stage-lover we have on the London boards, because he is not afraid of emotion, and because to charming intonations of voice he adds perfect tact. With its thrilling story and its splendid representation, there should be a long run in store for The Great Conspiracy.’
(The Illustrated London News, London, Saturday, 9 March 1907, p. 362c)

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