6 August 1888
MR. RICHARD MANSFIELD AT THE LYCEUM
After much manoeuvring and counter manoeuvring, Mr. Richard Mansfield has succeeded in outdistancing his rival, Mr. Bandmann, and has presented himself to the English public in a version of the "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" a good forty eight hours before anybody else. This effort, which for a moment seemed likely to be baffled by the astuteness and fertile resource of his antagonist, may be of good omen. The demand for dramatic versions of Mr. Stevenson's fascinating little story cannot be supposed at this dull period of the dramatic calendar to be at fever height; and it is more then possible that two Jekylls and two Hydes may prove ot be in excess of the public requirements. If so, there is a manifest advantage in being first in the field. Apart from this, the sympathy of playgoers is attracted to the Lyceum piece by more than one influence. Nobody appears to have discovered any dramatic capabilities in this narrative till Mr. Mansfield saw, or believed he saw, in it a good vehicle for his talents; and having induced his friend, Mr. Russell Sullivan, the American playwright, to prepare it for the stage, with the sanction of the original author, brought it out at Boston, and subsequently in New York, with brilliant success. Mr. Mansfield has thus acquired the sort of claim that attaches to priority of possession. A more fortunate circumstance for him still is that English playgoers, as was abundantly testified by the aspect of the Lyceum Theatre at the rising of the curtain on Saturday, are curious about Mr. Mansfield. He left us some seven or eight years ago an obscure young actor; he has returned with a great renown. In America his doings excite and interest second only to those of Mr. Irving when he happens to be on that side of the Atlantic; and though the present piece is not that in which he gained his high reputation, it has given rise to no little discussion and is considered by his American admirers to exhibit a new phase of his powers.
Mr. Mansfield's first entrance on the stage on Saturday caused some surprise, and, we are bound to add, some shade of disappointment. The spectators were not prepared to find the grave and stately Jekyll transformed into a young gentleman of slight stature and of somewhat insignificant appearance. But the adapter has judged it imperatively necessary to introduce what is called "a love interest" into the sombre story of the doctor and his evil double; and this preliminary settled, there was nothing left but to make Jekyll the enamoured and necessarily youthful swain. The price paid for this departure is doubly heavy; for the love making between Jekyll and the daughter with whom it has pleased the dramatist to endow Sir Danvers Carew does not stir the pulses; and the tones, gestures, and movements of Miss Beatrice Cameron were unfortunately of a nature to make the spectator sigh for one touch of truth and spontaneous impulse. It was the sudden appearance of the terrible Hyde towards the close of this scene and the murderous attack upon Sir Danvers that struck the imaginative keynote and brought the whole house to that mood of silent attention which is the crowning evidence of the actor's power. But a moment had passed since Jekyll had left the terrace by the drawing room windows when this strange creature reappeared, bent and twisted of form, with odd contortions of the hands and stealthy, tiger like movements, hissing out words of scorn and defiance. The change appears to be accomplished without mechanical aids beyond some touches that give a repulsive pallor to the features, and some sudden manipulation of the eyes which completes the sinister aspect of this embodiment of evil. The wigmaker's art, which is potent on these occasions, played no part, for Mr. Mansfield wore throughout his own hair. As much as to anything else, the chill of terror felt by the spectator was attributable to the fierce, raucous tones of the monster as he shouted with devilish glee, clawing at his victim's breast and trampling him under foot "with apelike fury" as the story says. The subsequent changes from Jekyll to Hyde were still more impressive, and were for the most part effected on a half darkened stage in full view of the spectator. Whenever Mr. Mansfield becomes Hyde, his savage chuckles, his devilish gloating over evil, his malignant sarcasms, his fierce energy of hate and revelling in all sinful impulses awaken strange sensations in the spectator; and the unearthly restless figure of this variation upon Frankenstein's fatal handiwork takes a powerful hold on the imagination.
Hyde, in brief, in Mr. Mansfield's hands is a creation of genius. There is little more to be said. We do not quite understand the notion that the adaptor has improved on Mr. Stevenson by exhibiting Jekyll as constantly haunted with a horror of the crimes of his other self. Surely this is the position in the story - at all events in the later stages. Mr. Mansfield's fits of remorse are the least effective passages in the play. They are spun out in the final scene to such an unconscionable tenuity that it is hard to avoid a suspicion that they are introduced from a sheer lack of anything else wherewith to fill the last act. the story, as presented on the stage, is, to tell the truth, neither very clear nor in itself very interesting. The attempts to heighten its gloom by the ravings of Hyde's servant Rebecca Moor - a sort of sublimated and aged Rosa Dartle, and again to correct its sombre tendencies by the jocularities of Inspector Newcomen, are equally unhappy. It is, if we remember rightly, this official who talks of "tanning the Hyde" as if he were an inspector in one of Mr. Burnand's burlesque parodies. His appearance is certainly responsible for Jekyll's ill timed exclamation "Ha! an inspector of police!" which approaches perilously near to the ludicrous in the very crisis of the play. The town will doubtless flock to see Mr. Mansfield's "dual impersonation"; but it is to be hoped that we shall ere long have an opportunity of seeing him as the Baron in "A Parisian Romance", a part which first made him famous.
Madame Tussaud and Sons are putting forth an extensive programme for the Bank Holiday, when they usually receive many hundreds of excursionists. A portrait of the present Emperor of Germany will be shown in the Great Hall, near to the imposing group portraying the lying in state of the late Emperor William. It should be mentioned that this group also contains artists' models of the ever remembered Emperor Frederick and of the great Chancellor. the Chamber of Horrors also is interesting, as containing the model of the notorious Jackson and of the many criminals who have marked the year. During the holiday week the orchestra will be greatly strengthened.