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Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Rosalind, New Theatre, London, May 1911

November 2, 2014

Phyllis Neilson-Terry (1892-1977), as she appeared for 9 matinee performances as Rosalind in a revival of Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, New Theatre, London, 11 May 1911. Other members of the cast included Philip Merivale, Maurice Elvey, Vernon Steel, Malcolm Cherry, Miriam Lewis and, as Touchstone, Arthur Williams.
(photo: Alfred Ellis & Walery, 51 Baker Street, London, W, negative no. 52936-4)

‘Youth, beauty, stature, presence – Miss Neilson-Terry has all the externals of a first-rate Rosalind. Never was a prettier fellow than her Ganymede. Her past performances, too – and especially that beautiful performance of Viola [His Majesty’s Theatre, London, 7 April 1910] – promised a Rosalind who might catch for us most, if not all, of the flickering play of lights and shades in this April day of a character; particularly when the name of her father [Fred Terry] was announced as that of the ”producer” of the play. And our hopes were only very slightly disappointed. Such young as Miss Neilson-Terry’s is an invaluable asset; but even youth has its own drawbacks, especially when it is let loose on part in which there is plenty of high spirits and laughter and a swashing and a martial outside. To our thinking, Miss Neilson-Terry made just a thought too much of that outside. Like many a Rosalind, or rather Ganymede, she was inclined to be too consistently hearty, even at moments when Rosalind, being really interested in what was toward, would forget to be hearty. Would Rosalind, for instance, have thumped Silvius on the back when she told him to ”ply Phœbe hard”? Again, she is a little too ready to ”make” fun, where there is humour in plenty already. Her reading of Phœbe’s letter to Ganymede we might instance as a case where a much simpler manner would have gained a much stronger effect. And lastly (O spirits and vigour of youth!) she jumps and dances and sways about and clps her hands more than she should. And sometimes she forces her voice.
‘Against this apparently formidable list of complaints we have to set merits that are much more important. Some of them – the natural merits – we have mentioned. Miss Neilson-Terry is a Rosalind who does not allow us to forget that Ganymede, pretending to be Rosalind, is actually Rosalind, and that under the mock love-making with Orlando lies what is to her dead earnest. This most essential idea is constantly peeping out in all sorts of nicely calculated and touching little ways. The swift changes of mood and cross-currents of thought and emotion are nearly all expressed by the tone, the gesture, or the face; and the grave gentleness or simple earnestness, of which we see rather too little, are, when they come, delightful. And we must add that in the interpolated cuckoo-song Miss Neilson-Terry showed a very highly-trained and very pretty singing-voice.
‘The whole production is charming. There is always something one wants to quarrel with in any ”cutting” for the modern stage of a Shakespeare play; but into that we need not go now. The acting is good through, especially that of Miss Miriam Lewes as Celia and Mr. Horace Hodges as Adam; Mr. Arthur Williams made an agreeable Touchstone, and Mr. Vernon Steel was handsome and gallant enough in the not very exacting part of Orlando.’
(The Times, London, 12 May 1911, p. 11c)

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