"The Fires of Fate" at the Liberty Theatre

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

"The Fires of Fate" at the Liberty Theatre is an article written by A. W. published in the New-York Tribune on 29 december 1909.


New-York Tribune (29 december 1909, p. 7)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle should have called in Mr. Sherlock Holmes and should have asked that eminent practitioner to trace for him a plot and synopsis for last night's play. Even Dr Watson could have made notes that would have helped the matter — for help was sadly needed.

"The Fires of Fate" is a good name for a play, and the first act is a good beginning. But all the skill and all the interest which start there are lost on the way to Egypt. In the first act appears Colonel Egerton, a gallant English officer, who consults James Roden, M. D., regarding his troublesome "symptoms." The colonel is a manly, cheery fellow, and you like him. The doctor likes him. The doctor has to tell him, though, that the symptoms indicate a spinal trouble which must terminate fatally within a year or eighteen months, after great pain and a slow ebbing of life. Once there was a case cured by the shock of a railway collision. But there seems no way to chock Colonel Egerton into a cure. The gallant officer, having no kin and no one dependent upon him, declares that he will take his own life and not yield it by inches to disease. The physician calls in his brother, the Rev. Samuel Roden, who convinces the afflicted soldier of the wickedness of the suicidal plan. The disease, it may be stated, is the result of a wound inflicted in a military action. The physician and the clergyman are about to leave London for a trip tip the Nile. They invite Colonel Egerton to accompany them. All this in the first act, an interesting, skilfully performed division of the play, revealing the hearts and motives of men who differ widely in nature and in outlook upon life.

Three acts remain. The colonel falls in love with an American girl on the journey up the Nile. The tourists rashly venture into the dervish country, are captured and some of their companions are slain. Egyptian troops, led by a British captain, rescue the captives. Colonel Egerton is wounded in a struggle with the dervishes, and the shock of the encounter restores him to health. Thus Providence in mysterious ways its wonders doth perform. A lesson of high intent, but worked out with as little dramatic art as can be on the playwright's part.

The third and fourth acts remind one of the "war plays," written and enacted by amateurs, in the days of used-to-be. These acts, and the second one for that matter, scarcely meet even the mildest demands of the least exacting playgoers of 1909. They are crude, barren, flat. Without the scenic effect with which they are presented they would go for very little; even with the excellent scenery and the theatrically admirable dervish warriors they do not go for much. Mr. Hamilton Revelle, as Colonel Egerton, is good, especially in the first act, where he has to do something worth while. Mr. William Hawtrey as the clergyman, Mr. Edwin Brandt as the physician and Mr. George Trader as Abdulla, a dragoman, received and earned liberal applause. But as the playwright did not fulfil the promise of his first act, neither the players nor the spectators could send the work along the road to distinction and success.

A. W.