This last week has been much taken up by theatrical matters.
All day last Tuesday rehearsing "The Great Adventure" with Leslie Faber at the Haymarket. He was very good in explaining to the usual incompetent young actors how to do a 'hesitating' scene in a 'clean' way. Also in explaining that the proper sequence in acting was "thought, movement, speech". These young people apparently know nothing and have to be shown the least things, the most obvious things. At the same time Faber, the star, was doing comic business with hot milk while Honoria made her great speech descriptive of the Abbey - a monstrous thing which would have absolutely ruined the speech. Of course I stopped him. He then said he thought I should! Good God! He also made even Hilda Trevelyan deliver 40 or 50 words straight up stage only because he wanted to be ranging to and fro at the back of the stage. I stopped that too.
In my two plays now rehearsing I have two unusually stupid actors. One tries, the other may try, but doesn't seem to. He has to be told everything, yet has the reputation of being a very good actor. In one scene he is patronising. Told to be very deferential and really worshipful, he said, "Yes, I see," and does the scene again exactly in the same manner. He did the scene several times. He is a conceited man and therefore can't learn. He knows little or nothing about articulation and enunciation, and cannot be heard clearly, or sometimes at all, even in the 3rd row of stalls.
X. complained much the other day about the producer's harsh attitude. "He never gives us any praise. I can't sleep. If it hadn't been for my kind author I should have walked out before this." This is a woman of 45-50, thoroughly experienced, ought to know life, married, etc. yet she behaves very much like a child. All stage artists very much the same. This producer is rude to young beginners and he ought not to be; but he is never more than hard or harsh to the others. He did spring onto the stage after a scene the other day and say: "This is appalling." But so it was appalling. It appeared that many of the company had been antagonised by him. I explained to this actress all the weight of worries and hard work on his shoulders - immense; far greater than hers, etc. She began to perceive things. The next morning I spoke briefly, but with a solemn beginning, to the producer: "You'd better give them some praise today." He said: "I give H. lots of praise in private." "The women," I said. He said, with significance: "Thank you." On the following day everything was all smiles, and X. radiant, positively. "How did you do it?" she said.
What a world!
Yesterday at rehearsal of Act IV, Sc. 1 of "Great Adventure", Faber asked another actor what his feelings were - what it meant to him when carve showed his two moles. This actor hesitated some time, and then said: "It means I'm ruined." On being informed that the case was precisely the reverse he said: "The play as a whole has never been shown to me, and I don't know the story." He had rehearsed the scene several times; the scene explains itself; yet he had never understood its point. He had just gone on playing it with an entirely wrong set of simulated emotions within him. Even at the worst one would have thought that he might have bought a copy of the play for 3s. 6d. and read it. I admit that in my opinion the play ought to be read in its entirety to the Company.
See also, 'Theatrical adventures' - April 1st. http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/theatrical-adventures.html
A man at the Haymarket told me yesterday that he had just seen in Piccadilly an old lady, parading with a board; "I am the widow of Bennett Burleigh, the famous war correspondent, and I am forced to this method - " I forget the rest. Anyhow she must be an old lady of some character.