Posts Tagged ‘Ina Pelly’


Ethel Irving as Lady Frederick Berolles in the Dressing Room scene from W. Somerset Maugham’s comedy Lady Frederick, Lonodon, 1907

January 7, 2013

Ethel Irving (1869-1963), English actress and singer,
as Lady Frederick Berolles in the Dressing Room scene
from W. Somerset Maugham’s comedy
Lady Frederick, Court Theatre, London, 26 October 1907,
with Graham Browne as Paradine Fouldes and Ina Pelly as Angelique
(photo: Dover Street Studios, London, 1907)

‘On the whole, one must confess to rather a disappointment over Lady Frederick, the new comedy by Mr. W.S. Maugham, author of A Man of Honour, in which Miss Muriel Mydford played the married barmaid with such remarkable force a little while ago [in a revival, Avenue Theatre, London, 18 February 1904]. the reason is easy to tell. A Man of Honour was a play of genuine life. It had something to say. Its faults were honest. Lady Frederick is just a conventional, tricky comedy, not quite clever enough at its own game.
‘Its theme, in truth, is almost identically that of Sweet Kitty Bellairs [comedy by David Belasco, first produced in London at the Haymarket, 5 October 1907] without the costumes and the excitements. Lady Frederick is supposed to be an extravagant young Irish widow of the present day, staying at Monte Carlo. She had at one time allowed herself to be innocently compromised in order to shield a weaker woman. A certain lady Mereston, however – a very acid English person – denounces lady Frederick publicly as an adventuress. Lady Frederick tells the real story. Lady Mereston refused to believe it. Not so Lady Mereston’s brother, an old admirer of Lady Frederick. He not only pays off certain debts with which Lady Frederick is entangles, but at the end makes the last of the many proposals of marriage that occur in the course of the evening, and brings down the curtain upon a desired embrace.
‘As a matter of fact, quite a large proportion of the play’s time is taken up by these proposals of marriage to Lady Frederick. Nearly all the men come up one after another. One of them – the orthodox stage villain, here represented as being of Jewish descent – tries to force her to marry him by lending her brother £900 at an exorbitant rate of interest, and threatening to ruin her in two ways if she does not consent. A wearisome old dodge! Then there is the usual nice boy, whom Lady Frederick considerately disillusions by inviting him into her dressing-room, and letting him see her put on her hair and rouge her cheeks and pencil her eyebrows. Another aspirant, an elderly admiral, is choked off even more promptly.
‘When not deprecating the attentions of these men, by the way, Lady Frederick seems to spend most of her time in evading those of creditors. One of the principal scenes of the play represents her wheedling round a visitant dressmaker, to whom she owed £700, with promises of invitations to an archduchess’s party.
‘As may be seen, so far as incident is concerned, practically everything in the piece is secondhand. It is put together with fair cleverness, but not marvellously well. One fancies that Mr. Maugham’s real hope was that Lady Frederick, as a buoyant, brilliant, large-hearted, impulsive Irishwoman, would, by sheer force of personality, carry everything before her and dazzle the audience into delight.
‘It is to be feared, unfortunately, that this is not quite what Miss Ethel Irving’s interpretation is likely to do. Extremely intelligent and alert as she always is, but fearfully nervous, Miss Ethel Irving under-played nearly every scene, and seemed afraid of just the moments that she should have attacked. Her exhibitions of temper were as different from the genuine Irish ”paddy” as a drizzle is from a thunderstorm. She adopted a certain brogue, but it was an accent rather than an inspiration.
‘Of the others, Mr. C.M. Lowne as Lady Mereston’s brother was wholly delightful, Miss Beryl Faber doing all that was necessary with Lady Mereston herself. Mr. Graham Browne as the nice boy viewed Lady Frederick’s toilet with admired astonishment.’
(The Daily Chronicle, London, Monday, 28 October 1907, p. 3e)