The Speckled Band (review 12 december 1913)
FINE PERFORMANCE BY F.P.'s OF GRAMMAR SCHOOL.
- Mr Sherlock Holmes, the great Detective ... Mr W. G. Craigen
- Dr Watson, his Friend ... Mr Harold Millar
- Billy, Page to Sherlock Holmes .... Master A. Morgan
- Dr Grimesby Rylott, a retired Anglo-Indian Surgeon, owner of Stoke Moran Manor ... Mr J. H. N. Craigen
- Enid Stoner, his Stepdaughter ... Miss Daisy Morgan
- Ali, an Indian, Valet to Dr Rylott ... Mr Jas. Alexander Morgan
- Rodgers, Butler to Dr Rylott ... Mr P. B. Simpson
- Mrs Staunton, Housekeeper to Dr Rylott ... Miss Florence Shirras
- Mr Scott Wilson, engaged to Enid's Sister ... Mr R. I. Maxwell
- Mr Longbrace, Coroner ... Mr Eric W. H. Brander
- Mr Brewer, Foreman of the Jury ... Mr W. B. Williamson
- Mr Armitage, a Juror ... Mr W. S. Morgan
- Clients of Mr Sherlock Holmes
- Mr Milverton ... Mr Douglas Jamieson
- Mr J. B. Montague ... Mr R. I. Maxwell
- Mr Holt Loming ... Mr W. S. Morgan
- Coroner's Officer ... Mr H. G. Edwards
- Inspector Downing ... Mr W. Johnston
- Peters ... Mr C. Later
In the whole realm of detective adventure, in which Sherlock Mimes has teens the central living" figure, no fictitious undertaking his ever so enthralled the reading public as Sir Conan Doyle's "Speckled Band." The mystery that pervades the story engrosses the reader, and holds him fettered till the terrible denouement. Contrary to ordinary experience, the dramatisation of this gruesome story has been accomplished at a minimum of loss in clearness and lucidity, and in some points the playwright has improved upon the conception of the novelist, in the vivid realism introduced in the stage representation.
But though the work reads smoothly. the plat is by no means an easy task for amateurs, and the members of the Grammar School Forme' Pupils' Club, who last night tackled it — most pluckily, let it be said — must have found many difficulties to overcome ere it could be brought to public performance. These difficulties did not, however, unnecessarily obtrude in last night's performance, and the presentation went with remarkable smoothness and freedom. One thing favoured the players materially — the large audience seemed perfectly intimate with the action of "The Speckled Band." Nothing, we should say, so disconcerts the amateur actor and actress as the audience applauding at the wrong places, or, on the other hand, smiling when they should look serious. The audience, however, on this occasion followed the action with keen avidity, and punctuated the unfolding of the plot with liberal applause.
From the spectacular as well as "the mechanical effects" points of view, the company might have been more comfortably situated had more stage accommodation been available. Now and then the picture was somewhat unduly crowded, although this does not handicap the efforts of those engaged in the production. The get-up of the scenery, the fit-up stage, and the general stage appurtenances, which includes the lighting, left little to be desired; and the waits between the acts and scenes were whiled pleasantly away by some interesting entracte music played by the Gordon Highlanders' Band, under the direction of Bandmaster Oddy.
Much care must have been exercised in the selection and ordering of the cast. It is, indeed, rarely the case that amateur actors are so carefully fitted with parts as are the ladies and gentlemen in "The Speckled Band." Mr W. G. Craigen realised the character of Sherlock Holmes with much discernment and with the necessary forceful restraint of the great detective, who discerns things in such a mysterious and sometimes uncanny manner. His friend, Dr Watson, was consistently played b Mr Harold Millar. He was the kindly-mannered and likeable doctor to the life.
As Dr Grimesby Rylott, Mr J. H. N. Craigen had a trying task to perform. It is not by any means a grateful part, but Mr Craigen made good deal of capital out of it. Now and then he was not quite so convincing as might have been desired, but in both scenes in the last set his efforts reached a high plane in dramatic art.
Miss Daisy Morgan's conception of the part of Enid Stonor was all that it should have been in so far as a bewildered but trusting young girl was portrayed, but a little more forcefulness in the more emotional passages might have enhanced her interpretation. She, too, rose to a high level in the last act. Miss Florence Shirras's realisation of Mrs Staunton, Dr Ry1ott's housekeeper, was decidedly good. It is not an easy task that she essays, but there was a resolution in her interpretation that was commendable.
In smaller parts mention must be made of Mr W. S. Morgan's Mr Armitage. It was an excellent character study. Mr Eric W. H. Brander was also interesting as the Coroner. A word of ready praise is due to Master Albert Morgan, who as Billy, the detective's page, showed decided dramatic ability. Another very clever character part, Rogers, the doctor's butler, was given a capital account of by Mr P. B. Simpson.
All the others in minor characters helped materially to fill in the picture. The most outstanding scene of all, perhaps, was the second in Act II. — Sherlock Holmes's rooms — were the acting all over was really of a good order. The last act held the audience strongly in grip, and the curtain fell to loud manifestations of approval.
"The Speckled Band" will be repeated to-night and to-morrow evening, and the play can be recommended as entertainment of a thoroughly attractive kind.