The Echo (11 December, 1896 - p.2)
MISS ANNIE HUGHES’ REVIVAL OF
It was a very happy notion of Miss Annie Hughes to set Sweet Nancy once more before us, a very timely reminder to playgoers in general, and critics in particular, that in this charming and vivacious young lady we have not only an expert and, in her own line, unrivalled comedienne, but also an actress who can call forth sympathy and our tears. Mr. Buchanan’s very successful adaptation of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel has lost none of its freshness or fragrance since it was seen at the Lyric and the Royalty about six years ago, and, though Mr. Henry Neville and Mr. Yorke Stephens have made way for Mr. Edmund Maurice in the part of General Sir Roger Tempest, and pretty Miss Lena Ashwell follows Miss Harriet Jay as Barbara Grey, happily Miss Hughes still remains to give us her vivid and bewitching sketch of “Sweet Nancy”—Lady Tempest. The scene of separation that concludes the second act was never better played by the actress. Nancy’s frantic entreaties to her husband not to go to the war had all the poignancy and girlish pathos that attaches to genuine cris de cœur. Needless to say that Miss Hughes rendered the tomboy aspects of captivating gaucherie and naiveté of Miss Broughton’s heroine with wonderful delicacy and aplomb. Mr. Maurice was rather gruffer than Mr. Neville, and perhaps scarcely suave and dignified enough, but on the whole he has never acted better. He gave a perfectly sincere and virile performance. Mr. C. M. Hallard, who used to play Bobbie Grey, makes the lover much more plausible than Mr. Garthorne. Miss Lena Ashwell strikes the right key as Barbara Grey, and Miss Helen Ferrers sustained a very promising reputation as Mrs. Huntley. Mr. Martin Harvey following Mr. Henry Esmond is delightfully boyish and calf-like as Algernon Grey, and Mr. Charles Rork gives a clever character sketch of Mr. Grey. A very pleasant afternoon. By the way in the Royalty programme Grey (now described as a country gentleman) has his name spelt with an “e,” in the Criterion bill it is printed with an “a.” We notice this discrepancy and ask for an explanation, inasmuch as we have never read Miss Broughton’s novel of Nancy.
The Morning Post (11 December, 1896 - p.3)
Miss Annie Hughes yesterday gave a special afternoon performance at the Criterion Theatre. The first piece was a one-act play entitled “An Old Song,” by the Rev. Freeman Wills and A. Fitzmaurice King. It has not been played before in London, and was very favourably received, being a touching idyllic story of Rouget de l’Isle, who is represented as starving in a garret until his old friend, Signora Rosetti, takes up his song, “The Marseillaise,” and sings it at the Opera House, where it at once becomes popular, so that it is repeated in the street outside. But the success comes too late; the poet dies before he has enjoyed his fame. Mr. Martin Hervey played the poet and Miss May Whitty the singer. “Sweet Nancy,” adapted by Mr. Robert Buchanan from Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel, was the principal piece. Though not new it has not been lately given, and was followed with great interest. The first act relates the courtship of General tempest and Nancy Gray, a young lady whose disposition is that of a schoolgirl. She accepts him without the slightest serious notion of the responsibilities she is undertaking. In the second act Nancy, as the young wife, shocks the conventional people about her by her girlish naiveté; the General goes off to a war and leaves her alone, and his young friend Musgrave decides to take advantage of his absence to seek for himself the affections of Nancy. Nancy supposes that Musgrave’s visits are meant for her sister Barbara, and so she encourages them. In the third act, a year after the second, the General comes home. Musgrave takes the opportunity to declare his passion to Nancy, who resents it, in the hearing of Barbara. The scoundrel is sent packing, and the General finds his wife the same naïve, good girl that she was at the beginning. Miss Annie Hughes played Nancy with great skill, rendering the light and serious shades of the character with force and truth. Miss Lena Ashwell gave her excellent support as Barbara; and Mr. Edmund Maurice made a good General. The other parts are unimportant, but were very fairly represented. There was a good house, which was most appreciative of the merits of the play and of the acting.
The Daily Telegraph (11 December, 1896 - p.13)
“Sweet Nancy,” adapted by Robert Buchanan from Rhoda Broughton’s once very popular novel, is a charming play, and, as acted now, if put into an evening bill, would attract the thousands of playgoers who delight in a happy combination of humour, nature, and tenderness. When produced six years ago at the Lyric, there was something wrong with Nancy. It was rather a promising than a wholly successful work. We suspect that it was not very well acted, and we have it on record that it was not well rehearsed. Consequently, the poor author suffered, as authors invariably do, from some mistake in casting, or from just that want of pulling together which often makes all the difference between a hesitating and a unanimous verdict. We cannot speak from authority, but from reading what we wrote about “Sweet Nancy” in 1890; and seeing the play again in 1896, it seems to us that it must have been altered, and altered for the better; that the pulling together has been accomplished, and that the part of Barbara Gray, the Martha sister, as opposed to the Mary sister, has been marvellously improved, for the good alike of the actress and the play. Of one thing we are certain, and that is, from first to last “Sweet Nancy” could scarcely be better acted than it was yesterday afternoon. We have, too, what such delicate and poetic work requires—harmony and atmosphere. We seem to know the family of the Grays by heart, the testy, techy, dictatorial father, the sweet, consoling mother, who lives in her children’s love, the bumptious Sandhurst cadet, the hobbledehoy, with sporting tendencies, the red-haired tomboy sister, the brat, all of them. They are photographs of many an English home. They are recognised at a glance. Miss Rhoda Broughton has suggested them; Robert Buchanan has made them realities on the stage. And we all know, love, and appreciate Nancy, the innocent, natural, and adorable Nancy, who, in the bright and brilliant person of Miss Annie Hughes, carries us straight away to the comedy days of Mrs. Bancroft when she created Polly Eccles and Naomi Tighe. Six years have worked wonders in ripening the style and adding in the experience of this delightful actress. Possibly she was as good in 1890 as now in the first act of pure comedy, fresh, bright, and exhilarating, but she displays now finer gradations of art in showing how the child-wife gradually becomes the woman. A child-wife she always is, and ever must be, but years of added experience have given to Miss Annie Hughes the power of showing how the responsibilities of marriage sober the most playful of women. The change from child to woman was very subtle and artistically defined. We find now what we failed to find in the “Sweet Nancy” of 1890—real grief, real emotion, real tears. The Nancy of Miss Annie Hughes deserves to be wider known than it is at present; it proves that we have in this genuine artist, with her combined sense of humour and adherence to nature, a comedy actress of the first class. Barbara Gray, the Martha sister—the self-sacrificing, patient, unselfish, lovable woman—is a beautiful conception. It would be difficult to find a part so sweet and sympathetic played with greater charm, decision, and tenderness than by Miss Lena Ashwell, who has forgotten her accentuated manner, and acted yesterday as she has seldom acted before. The scene in which, with an agony of pain in her firm countenance, the suggestion of tears suppressed in her soft eyes, and not one vestige of excess or violence— her voice as soft as music and as clear as a bell—she dismisses her sister’s empty-headed lover, on whom she also had bestowed her heart, was as admirable in effect as it was beautiful in idea. Equally good was the scene with her sister’s husband, when Barbara explains the tangled situation, stands up for her little sister’s honour, and, with a gentle, martyr-like resignation, claims some pity on account of her poor broken but patient heart. Two such performances as these by Miss Annie Hughes and Miss Lena Ashwell are seldom seen in modern plays. The character of the middle-aged lover properly falls to Mr. Edmund Maurice, and he makes of him a fine, manly, soldierly fellow, who is not ashamed of his gentle, loving nature and his tender heart. M. C. M. Hallard, a very promising young actor, with a delightful voice; Mr. Charles Rock, a little bit too fussy, perhaps; Mr. Martin Harvey, earnest, dogged, and, boylike, quick to take offence; Mr. Kenneth Douglas, the boy as of old; and Miss Henrietta Cowen, the gentle mother—all helped the play to the success it unquestionably made.
The delightful Tow-Tow, with the reddish hair, originally played by Miss Beatrice Ferrar, now falls to her sister, the living image of her, who calls herself Miss Marion Bishop. She was the very romp of this delightful and natural family. The “grass widow” who excites the loyalty of the impetuous Algy is played by Miss Helen Ferrers, and we repeat again what we hinted just now, that an author is lucky indeed who gets his work so ably interpreted. There was not a fault to find with the acting anywhere, and the result should be a welcome evening’s entertainment whenever it is wanted. The stage needed an antidote to some recently scattered poison. It comes opportunely with “Sweet Nancy,” who does not belie her name.
“An Old Song,” which started the programme, is too sad and depressing for words. It is the kind of play that makes an audience inclined to howl like a dog when the moon is out. The Rev. Freeman Wills and Mr. Fitzmaurice King meant well, we feel sure, and so did Mr. Martin Harvey, who was life-like in his consumptive sketch of Rouget de L’Isle, who dies in the arms of victory. But in wet, wintry weather, with influenza in the air, such heartrending tragedies are depression sublimated. The playbill contained sorrow far too deep for tears. However, the misery of “An Old Song” soon wore off, and it was an afternoon profitably spent over a play full of charm and acting of very unusual merit.
The Standard (11 December, 1896 - p.3)
A special matinée was given yesterday at the Criterion by Miss Annie Hughes, apparently for the purpose of re-introducing Mr. Robert Buchanan’s adaptation of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s “Nancy.” Though in some respects very clumsily done—as, for instance, when, in the first act, Nancy comes forward and betrays the incapacity of the adaptor by delivering a long soliloquy explaining all that has happened and how Sir Roger Tempest has proposed to her—a fair idea of the book is given in the play; and Miss Annie Hughes interprets the character of Nancy in a singularly natural and girlish fashion, with a quiet sense of humour and some very effective little touches of pathos.
The Era (12 December, 1896)
MISS ANNIE HUGHES’S MATINEE.
At the Criterion Theatre, on Thursday Afternoon, Dec. 10th,
Revival of the Play, Adapted by Robert Buchanan
from Rhoda Broughton’s Novel “Nancy,” entitled
General Sir Roger Tempest ... Mr EDMUND MAURICE
Frank Musgrave ... Mr. C. M. HALLARD
Mr Grey ... Mr CHARLES ROCK
Algernon Grey ... Mr MARTIN HARVEY
Bobby ... Mr KENNETH DOUGLAS
The Brat ... Master GROSE
Pemberton ... Mr CLAUDE EDMONDS
Barbara Grey ... Miss LENA ASHWELL
Nancy Grey ... Miss ANNIE HUGHES
Theresa Grey ... Miss MARION BISHOP
Mrs Huntley ... Miss HELEN FERRERS
Mr Robert Buchanan’s adaptation of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel “Nancy” was first seen at the Lyric Theatre on July 12th, 1890, with Mr Henry Neville as Sir Roger Tempest, Mr Buckland as Frank Musgrave, Me Ernest Hendrie as Mr Gray, Miss Ethel Hope as Mrs Gray, Miss Harriet Jay as Barbara, Mr Henry V. Esmond as Algernon Gray, and Miss Frances Ivor as Mrs Huntley. The version was subsequently transferred to the Royalty Theatre on Oct. 6th of the same year, Mr Yorke Stephens being the Sir Roger, Mr C. W. Garthorne the Frank Musgrave, and Miss Jennie McNulty representing the designing widow. Mr Buchanan’s adaptation formed the chief attraction at Miss Annie Hughes’s matinée at the Criterion Theatre on Thursday last. We have already twice dealt with the merits and demerits of the work, and need now only record that Mr Edmund Maurice made an easy, natural, and quite gentlemanlike Sir Roger Tempest; that Mr C. M. Hallard was thoroughly effective as Frank Musgrave; that Mr Charles Rock, though emphatic and domineering enough, made Mr Gray rather too common and vulgar; that the “boys” were well played by Mr Martin Harvey, Mr Kenneth Douglas, and Master Grose; that Miss Henrietta Cowen duly depicted the meek supineness of Mrs Gray; that Miss Lena Ashwell was sweet and gentle as Barbara; that Miss Annie Hughes was as charmingly simple and ingenuous as ever as Nancy; that Miss Marion Bishop made a pretty Theresa, and hat Miss Helen Ferrers acted with skill and tact as Mrs Huntley.
From The Theatrical ‘World’ of 1896 by William Archer (London: Walter Scott, Ltd., 1897 - p.341-342):
On Thursday last Miss Annie Hughes revived at the Criterion, for a single afternoon, Mr. Robert Buchanan’s dramatisation of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s Nancy. When first produced at the Royalty, this clever and really human little play was less successful, I fancy, than it deserved to be. It certainly delighted the audience at the Criterion, where it was acted with excellent spirit. Miss Hughes seems born for the title-part, in which she displays admirable humour, vivacity, and tenderness. Her performance is a genuine and most sympathetic character-creation. Mr. Edmund Maurice was good as Sir Roger Tempest, and the Gray children were capitally played by Mr. Martin Harvey, Mr. Kenneth Douglas, and Miss Beatrice Ferrars.
The Stage (11 February, 1897 - p.13)
So much favour was given to Sweet Nancy on its revival at Miss Annie Hughes’s matinée at the Criterion, on December 10, that its reappearance in an evening bill, with Miss Hughes again in the title character, will be welcome to very many playgoers, more especially when it is preceded by a new play from the pen of Mrs. Oscar Beringer, a writer whose work always deserves careful criticism. Thus the double bill with which Mr. Arthur Chudleigh reopened the Sloane Square house on Monday, February 8, ought certainly to prove attractive, until Easter, at all events. The cast of Robert Buchanan’s adaptation of Rhoda Broughton’s novel is in most respects identical with that of the Criterion matinée, and the interpretation given of this delightful comedy on Monday was such as fully to justify the genuine applause of an emphatically well-pleased audience. We have nothing further to say about Miss Annie Hughes’s charming embodiment of the girlish heroine, her Sweet Nancy being now indeed an impersonation flawless in the blending of childlike candour and sisterly devotion with the keen love and passionate jealousy of a rapidly growing woman. Mr. Edmund Maurice gave again a bluff and manly performance of Sir Roger Tempest; Mr. Martin Harvey as Algernon, Mr. C. M. Hallard as the would-be seducer, Frank Musgrave, and Miss Henrietta Cowen as the downtrodden and submissive Mrs. Gray repeating their excellent portrayals. Miss Beatrice Ferrar appeared on Monday as that lively tomboy, “Tow-Tow,” instead of her sister, Miss Marion Bishop. The character of the mean, intriguing domestic tyrant, Mr. Gray, was assigned to Mr. George Canninge (vice Mr. Charles Rock), who by his make-up imparted a certain oddity to the rôle. Miss Helen Ferrers made the grass widow, Mrs. Huntley, as worldly and superficially fascinating as necessary, other parts being filled by Mr. Hubert H. Short and Mr. Trebel as the younger Gray lads, Mr. Williams as the butler, and Mrs. Campbell Bradley as the housekeeper. Miss Lena Ashwell was succeeded as Barbara by Miss Beryl Faber, a young actress of much culture and high intelligence, whose dignified and sympathetic playing of her important scenes in the last act counted for much in the success of this Court revival.
The Morning Post (27 December, 1897 - p.2)
Miss Marion Thornhill begins her season at the Avenue on January 6 with Robert Buchanan’s “Sweet Nancy,” which had a successful run at the Court Theatre. In the cast will be found Miss Lena Ashwell, Miss Thornhill, Miss Kate Osborne, Miss May Protheroe, and Miss Annie Hughes; Messrs. Martin Harvey, Havard Arnold, Jarvis Widdicombe, Herbert H. Short, and Mr. Edmund Maurice. Mrs. Beringer’s one-act play, “A Bit of Old Chelsea,” in which Miss Annie Hughes will resume her original part, is to precede the comedy.
The Globe (7 January, 1898 - p.6)
RE-OPENING OF THE AVENUE.
“Sweet Nancy” and “A Bit of Old Chelsea,” with which the Avenue Theatre re-opened, are now accustomed to run tandem, Mrs. Beringer’s clever ;piece being a well-tried leader. In spite of the slightly uncomfortable taste it leaves in the mouth, concerning which, perhaps, too much has been said, it is always welcome, no other piece showing equally well the gifts of Miss Annie Hughes in realistic comedy. The part of “Saucers” in this quaint idyll of the gutter is once more taken by this clever lady, Mr. Edmund Maurice repeating his excellent performance of Jack Hillier. “Sweet Nancy,” to resume our previous illustration, is “between the shafts,” and on her falls the whole of the “collar work.” It may be doubted whether any comedy of modern days has been so frequently revived as this adaptation by Mr. Robert Buchanan of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s pleasing story. Scarcely a season seems to have passed since its production some seven or eight years ago at the Lyric, in which at some house or another it has not faced the footlights. Quite worthy is it of its popularity, and now even it proves to have lost nothing of its power to entertain and delight. It is, in short, a brightly written and thoroughly sympathetic play, which would be the better, perhaps, if its interest at one point were a little less gloomy, but which in most of its scenes is as sunny and inspiriting as it can well be. As Nancy Grey, Miss Annie Hughes first showed us with how much genuine comedy she can lighten the pathos with the possession of which she has long been credited. Her performance retains all its old charm, and was received with much delight. No long time after Mr. Henry Neville “created” the rôle of Sir Roger Tempest Mr. Edmund Maurice succeeded to it. He still gives it a masculine breadth quite suited to the part, and is just the sort of middle-aged man to captivate a young girl’s fancy. The children, the most delightful that in recent days have been put on the stage, are now played by entirely different exponents, among whom Miss Joan Burnett and Mr. Martin Harvey were conspicuous. Miss Lena Ashwell exhibited much grace and a spirit of genuine comedy as Barbara, and Miss Marion Thornhill, the new manager, a lady endowed with great physical advantages, played with much sincerity and power the not too remunerative part of Mrs. Huntly. The revival was received with marked favour, and may be seen with the certainty of delight. The whole, to the lovers of simple and healthy fare, will well repay a visit.
[From The Penny Illustrated Paper (29 January, 1898 - p.68).]
The Guardian (26 September, 1899 - p.8)
Manchester playgoers already know Miss Hughes’s performance in “Sweet Nancy.” Mr. Robert Buchanan did not make a highly skilful adaptation of Miss Rhoda Broughton’s novel “Nancy.” The play is rather episodic, and unity of purpose is necessarily wanting, particularly after the first act. The points that draw us are those of the story-teller rather than of the dramatist; we see in them the worldly knowledge and sagacity of Miss Broughton, the bias of cynicism that leads her to choose situations always on the verge of the unpleasant, even though they are true and natural and common; and, lastly, we see the unconventionality. Last night we felt that we owed everything to these traits of the novelist that visibly lie behind the work of the adapter, and to Miss Hughes. Nothing else and nobody else mattered. Miss Hughes has many qualities that fit her to present the captivating mixture of Nancy’s character. Nancy is a hoyden and an altruist, a vixen and a devotee, “a pleasant little devil” (in her own phrase) and a sister of mercy. She is a mere child, and the old man who marries her is a natural and obvious foil to her gusty but affectionate caprices. Where Miss Hughes fails is that her purpose is not perfectly consistent. Occasionally a sentence drops that seems detached in tone from the rest, that strikes the ear as a little incongruous piece of insincerity—a burlesque almost of her own manner and the play. Again, a few passages seemed to us to speak rather of a loud young woman than of what Nancy was at her wildest moments—a madcap. But Miss Hughes’s performance was still very pleasant, and never more attractive than when she was being followed about by that unconventional retinue of inquisitive and inconvenient young brothers and sisters. The playing of the rest of the company wanted finish and in most cases experience.
Miss Hughes also appeared as Nan in John Buckstone’s “Good for Nothing”—a part that has been a favourite with several actresses. Here she takes the field with Miss Louie Freear, and we cannot say justly that she gets glory by it. The part is that of a poor, towzled cockney girl. It is full of possibilities, if it is seen to be in need of genuine artistic and restrained handling. But Miss Hughes did not depend on exquisite grimace and intonation. She raised her voice, brushed her hair and her boots with the same brush, wiped her face and the floor with the same towel, and performed similar antics for about a quarter of an hour. The audience never laughed louder than at these things, which could be done by any amateur. Miss Hughes did herself infinitely greater credit in “Sweet Nancy.”
The Morning Post (12 December, 1900 - p.3)
THE IRVING DRAMATIC CLUB.
“Sweet Nancy” is well adapted to representation by amateurs. It portrays characters familiar and dear to us in every- day life, and the succession of light and humorous scenes makes no great demands on dramatic power or acting of serious pretension. In the hands of the Irving Amateur Society Mr. Robert Buchanan’s charming play delighted the audience that filled St. George’s Hall last night, and the success of the company was indeed well deserved. There was a care and finish in the performance unusual in the efforts of amateurs, and a regard to clear pronunciation that made it a pleasure instead of a task, as is so often the case, to listen to the words of the actors. Mrs. Archie Keen played Nancy. She wisely followed in the footsteps of the Nancy with whose memory the comedy will ever be associated—Miss Annie Hughes—but there was no servility in Mrs. Keen’s methods, and though she bears, singularly enough, some facial resemblance to one of our most genuinely comic actresses, her rendering had an individuality and a spirit of its own. The bevy of brothers and sisters who contributed so largely to our enjoyment was a marked feature of excellence, and Miss Nora Wallis Lancaster as Tow-Tow, Mr. Cyril Shepard as Algernon, Mr. Cuthbert Denton as Bobby, and Master Kimbell as “The Brat” were all quite up to the mark. Mr. Leonard Graves, to whom the company owe the first-rate stage management, was the gentle old general, and he presented the character with dignity and pathos. Mr. Percy Varley played the ridiculous father, a part easily exaggerated, and the lovers and minor personages were intelligently represented. Between the acts the orchestra, under Mr. Henry Baker’s baton, performed an unusually pleasant selection of pieces.
The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (15 December, 1900 - p.36)
DURING its twenty-one years of existence the Irving Amateur Dramatic Club has achieved such a covetable record for good and extensive work that one was not surprised to find the performance of Robert Buchanan’s prettily sentimental comedy Sweet Nancy, given by the club at St. George’s Hall the other evening, in many was quite admirable, and round after round of hearty and spontaneous applause testified the approval of the numerous and fashionable audience which attended. As Nancy, Mrs. Archie Keen played with decision, simplicity, and a vivid appreciation of the pretty wilfulness and wealth of tenderness underlying the character, that were eminently interesting and attractive. She was well supported by Miss Florence Lancaster as Barbara, one of the best moments of the evening being the scene between the two sisters, in act III. after Frank Musgrave’s declaration of love for Nancy. Mr. Athol Stewart as Frank had struck the right key; but his playing would have been the better for a little more assurance. Mr. Cyril Shepard is highly to be commended for an excellent performance as Algy; and as “Tow-Tow” and Bobby respectively Miss Nora Wallis Lancaster and Mr. G. Cuthbert Denton were both admirable. The fascinating, but quietly “cattish” grass widow, Mrs. Huntley, was cleverly played by Mrs. W. R. McConnell; and Mr. Leonard Graves, who bore also a stage manager’s burden, was good as Sir Roger Tempest. Mr. Percy Varley, Mrs. St. Hill, and Miss Helena M. Conrad each contributed very able work as Mr. and Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Pemberton respectively. Altogether the players are to be congratulated on a distinctly satisfactory performance.
The Cheltenham Looker-On (19 October, 1907 - p.15)
Sayings and Doings of Cheltenham.
THE HOYDENISH part of “Sweet Nancy” in Robert Buchanan’s charming comedy of that name is well within the compass of Miss Annie Hughes’ particular style of acting—gay, lively, and anon serious enough, and that lady is much in evidence during the progress of the play which is being presented at the Opera House this week. The story is by no means novel, neither is the plot a strong one; yet it is brightly, and in some parts brilliantly, told. Miss Hughes has played in the piece over a thousand times, and she invests the title role with a charm and vivacity which delights all who see her. The part of “Nancy’s” middle-aged soldier husband, “Sir Roger Tempest”—during whose absence in South Africa occurs the unpleasantness of which “Nancy” is the innocent victim—is well taken by Mr. Rupert Lister; and, indeed, all the characters (especially those of “Teresa Grey,” and the irrepressible “Brat,” by Miss Dundas Slater and Miss Norah Vernon) are in capable hands. The comedy, which is preceded by a one-act play, “After Many Years,” written by Miss Hughes, is well produced and mounted. Last evening “Miss Tommy,” with Miss Hughes in the name-part, was successfully produced. There will be a matinée of “Sweet Nancy” this afternoon.