41. The Lights of Home (1892)
The Lights of Home
by Robert Buchanan and George R. Sims.
London: Adelphi Theatre. 30 July to 17 December, 1892 (121st performance).
Plymouth: Theatre Royal. 22 February, 1893. First provincial performance.
Film: The Lights of Home, directed by Fred Paul, 1920 (more information in the Robert Buchanan Filmography section).
The Referee (24 July, 1892 - p.3)
“The Lights of Home” is the title which has been finally selected for the new drama, by George R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, which will be produced at the Adelphi next Saturday evening. There is a sympathetic sound about this title which likes me well—and I fancy it will find favour in the sight of playgoers. I daresay it was suggested to the collaborators by a recent perusal of that popular poem “The Stowaway,” in which the following lines occur:—
All was over now, and hopeless!
But across those miles of foam
They could hear the shouts of people
And could see the Lights of Home!
There are five acts in “The Lights of Home.” Of these four take place on the English sea-coast, and the scene of the other is laid in Baltimore, Maryland. The steamship Northern Star will cut rather a prominent figure in the play, and on board this vessel Mr. Kyrle Bellew will occupy exactly the same position that he occupied in real life on board another vessel some years ago. Therefore he may be expected to know his “business.”
The Era (30 July, 1892 - p.8)
MESSRS GEO. R. SIMS AND ROBERT BUCHANAN’S drama The Lights of Home will be produced at the Adelphi Theatre to-night, with a cast which will include Mr Kyrle Bellew, Mr Lionel Rignold, Mr Charles Dalton, Mr W. A. Elliot, Mr G. W. Cockburn, Mr Howard Russell, Mr Thomas Kingston, and Mr Willie Drew; Miss Evelyn Millard, Mrs Patrick Campbell, Mrs H. Leigh, Miss Ethel Hope, and Miss Clara Jecks. The authors have founded their play upon the pathetic poem “The Stowaway.” The action takes place, for the most part, on the English sea coast; but the scene changes in the last act to Baltimore, Maryland.
The Times (1 August, 1892 - p.6)
The era of historical drama at the Adelphi has been shorter than some would have desired to see. In The Lights of Home, which, like the recent Cromwellian play, is the work of Messrs. Sims and Buchanan, an undisguised return is made to the kind of play with which these authors are principally associated, and, considering the frantic applause bestowed upon their efforts on Saturday night, and chiefly upon a great mechanical sensation in the shape of a shipwreck, Adelphi melodrama of the familiar type may be said to have taken a new lease of life. To be sure, The Lights of Home is an excellent sample of this class of entertainment. The story of the distressed lovers, which it seems so hard to break away from, is here told anew with considerable freshness of incident and with scenic effects which no one will deny to be startling and, in their way, impressive. Like an ever-popular dish, the story is served sometimes with one sauce, sometimes with another. Messrs. Sims and Buchanan have elected in the present instance to give it a nautical flavouring, choosing as the hero an officer in the merchant service, whence an opportunity for representing one of the most formidable catastrophes with which the stage can deal, to say nothing of a lifeboat rescue and such incidental attractions as views of the sea in calm and storm, of towering cliffs, and flashing lighthouses, together with a picturesque personnel of fisher-folk and coastguardsmen. Although the nautical drama is less seen now than in the days of T. P. Cooke, there is no evidence that it has lost its hold upon the popular imagination. The stage sailor no longer dances a hornpipe or “shivers his timbers,” but he is still good for a song with a stirring chorus, and for unsurpassed feats of gallantry in love and war. As a hero of melodrama accordingly he comes only to conquer. This was the lesson of Harbour Lights, probably the most successful nautical play produced since Black-Eye’d Susan, and, judging by it reception on Saturday evening, The Lights of Home will, in the course of the next few months, tell a similar tale. After all, who shall say that novelty of plot is more indispensable to melodrama than it is to pantomime? Having a favourite set of characters, what more natural than that the public should have their favourite set of sentiments and situations?
Yet the refashioning of the old story which each successive play demands is, perhaps, like the breaking of the egg by Columbus, less easy than it looks. The authors of The Lights of Home have handled their material with a deftness and a skill which it is easier to criticize than to imitate. In the present instance, they appear to have borrowed a hint or two from no less venerable a source than Romeo and Juliet. Otherwise, whence comes their family feud between the Garfields and the Carringtons, the feud about to be healed by the attachment which has sprung up between a son and a daughter of the rival houses? The lady, moreover, has a hot-headed brother, Edgar, who corresponds as closely to Tybalt as her cousin Arthur Tredgold does to the County Paris. There is also an elopement and a marriage of the lovers, not in the Friar’s cell, but in distant Baltimore, whither the devoted Philip has carried off the trusting Sybil in his vessel. Romeo, it is true, was not “falsely accused,” but this being the inevitable fate of the modern hero, Messrs. Sims and Buchanan have wisely given their romance the necessary twist in this direction. In carrying off his sweetheart to his lugger in the offing, Philip has a smart encounter with his rival which leads to nothing; but the latter is almost immediately seized by the avenging father of a village maiden whom this villain has betrayed, and is thrown over the cliffs to his death; so that the hero sails for America with a suspicion of murder attaching to his fair name. That he comes back manfully to face the charge need not be said; this and his happy restoration to the arms of his bride, from whom he has meanwhile been parted, are the necessary features of the fifth act.
It is on his passage back to England, and, by a happy coincidence, on the very part of the coast adjoining his ancestral home and his bride’s, that the wreck of the vessel takes place—an event which is, indeed, a triumph of sensationalism. The steamer lies athwart the stage, and, being supposed to strike upon a rock during a terrific storm, sinks into the raging billows under the eyes of an awe-struck and breathless house, while the hero, unaccountably left behind by the rescuing party of coastguardsmen, swims for his life, holding in his arms meanwhile the betrayed village maiden who has vainly come to his assistance in her father’s boat. If this is not the dernier mot of the stage carpenter, then marvels are, indeed, in store for us. Mr. Kyrle Bellew succeeds Mr. Leonard Boyne as the leader of the Adelphi company, and in this exacting part of Philip Carrington exerts himself to no small purpose. As a mere physical achievement his performance is remarkable. His faithful bride is Miss Millard, a young actress of some power, but a little too prone to over-elaboration of gesture and accent. The pathetic part of the betrayed maiden falls to Mrs. Patrick Campbell, who contrives to touch the true note, and her avenging father finds a striking representative in M. W. A. Elliott. The reception of the play, we have only to add, was boisterously enthusiastic.
The Morning Post (1 August, 1892 - p.2)
Messrs. G. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan in their late play at the Adelphi dipped into the pages of Sir Walter Scott, and introduced Cavaliers and Roundheads to their patrons. The experiment was fairly successful, but as a rule melodrama in its simple and conventional forms pleases better than the poetic or historical drama. Scenes of everyday life set forth in homely incidents and characters “up to date” are more to the liking of Adelphi audiences. Therefore, in the new play, “The Lights of Home,” the auditor is not surprised to have the catch-word heard at the street corners before entering the theatre. The characters belong to the present time, and some of them echo the most recent jokes and allusions of Modern Babylon. In constructing the drama the authors have had in view such rural scenes as Messrs. Gatti would present with all possible effect, and lovely coast scenery with a storm at sea and other sensational effects bring into prominence all the mechanical resources of the theatre. The story is a simple but sympathetic one, the humour direct and effective, and the pathos and sentiment are such as commend themselves to the audience. The incidents are sufficiently exciting to give the “real old Adelphi thrill,” which hushes pit and gallery for a moment, only to break forth into vehement applause when the breathless suspense of the situation is over. In regard to the title, “The Lights of Home,” dramatists who have once made a great hit are fond of repeating their successes, and in this play there is the echo of “The Lights of London,” which made Mr. Sims famous, also of “The Harbour Lights.” There is no particular reason why the new Adelphi drama should be called “The Lights of Home,” but it answers its purpose, and the “play’s the thing” after all. It opens in a fishing village where Philip Carrington, first mate of the steamer Northern Star, has returned home after a voyage which had been taken owing to unrequited love. During his absence another has taken his place and has paid attentions to the heroine, Sybil, daughter of a wealthy landowner. The rival, Tredgold, is not a worthy suitor, for her has betrayed the daughter of a fisherman, Dave Purvis, but this fact has yet to be revealed, as we may be sure that so innocent and pure-minded a maiden as the heroine would not tolerate such a lover if she knew of his misdeeds. Sybil also has been led to believe that Carrington is dead. She is therefore greatly astonished to meet her old lover in the village. Like young Lochinvar in Sir Walter Scott’s ballad, Philip does not intend to have his sweetheart taken from him by a wealthier man. He appears at a party given at the young lady’s house, Cliff Hall, and without stopping for travelling costume carries the heroine off in her ball dress to the ship. Dave Purvis, the fisherman, in revenge for the betrayal of his daughter, tosses the rival Tredgold over the cliff. The story now pushes along briskly, for in the third act we find Philip and Sybil are married, “and living happily ever after” at Baltimore, U.S.A. But in the midst of their felicity the young husband learns from an English journal that he is suspected of the murder of his rival, Tredgold. Brave and fearless, the hero determines to face the charge, and disprove it. In the fourth act there is a storm at sea, threatening with shipwreck the steamer in which the hero has returned to England. There is all the rush and roar, the fury and excitement which on the Adelphi stage never fails to evoke the enthusiastic plaudits of a well-pleased audience. Nobody inquires particularly why Philip is left alone on the storm-beaten vessel, or why Tress Purvis, the fisherman’s daughter, pulls out to sea in an open boat, like another Grace Darling, to save him. It is enough for all practical purposes that he is saved, and that when the coastguard men take charge of the hero in anticipation of the inquiry about the murder, Dave Purvis, the fisherman, confesses to having thrown the rival lover over the cliff, and promises to appear when Justice requires him. Philip embraces his wife, and, making pleasant references to “The Lights of Home,” the drama ends to the satisfaction of everybody. The acting was excellent all round. Mr. Kyrle Bellew played the young nautical hero, and if he lacks the physical force of Mr. Terriss, he is quite as impassioned and earnest, and made the hero very attractive. Miss Evelyn Millard represented the heroine gracefully, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell had a part that suited her extremely well—that of the fisherman’s daughter. It is a conventional character, but Mrs. Campbell played it with much fervour and intensity. Mrs. H. Leigh was excellent as the fisherman’s wife, and Miss Clara Jecks in the little part of Martha Widgeon employed her genuine humour to good purpose. A drama of this kind must of course have a comic cockney to relieve the sentiment. The authors have in Jim Chowne a “private inquiry agent,” fitted Mr. Lionel Rignold with a part “of the street streety,” and he revels in it, keeping pit and gallery in a perpetual state of hilarity. The private inquiry agent has always got “a lidey in the case,” and he tells us that “when a lidey’s in the case” profit is the certain result. Mr. Lionel Rignold’s delivery of Mr. Sims’s Cockneyisms was quite droll enough to justify the incessant laughter of the audience. Mr. Charles Dalton and Mr. G. W. Cockburn played well, as did Mr. Willie Drew, Mr. Howard Russell, and others. The sentiment of “The Lights of Home,” with its alternately pathetic and humorous dialogue, its effective and exciting scenes and excellent acting, proved so entirely to the taste of the audience that it may be pronounced a most successful drama. Authors, actors, and managers have again shown their competence to cater for an Adelphi audience, and to deserve the enthusiastic applause that was heard when the curtain fell.
The Pall Mall Gazette (1 August, 1892 - p.1)
“THE LIGHTS OF HOME.”
THE NEW MELODRAMA AT THE ADELPHI.
IT seems safe to prophesy that Mrs. Patrick Campbell will some day take a very prominent place on the English stage. Since her appearance as Rosalind at the Shaftesbury in 1890, she has made wonderful progress, and her performance on Saturday night was as good as we could wish it to be; with a delightful person, a splendid voice, and a true artistic idea of acting, she seems qualified for highest work, and her acting on Saturday lifted the orthodox melodrama to a surprising level. To be just, we must add that she was greatly aided by the authors. Messrs. Sims and Buchanan have caught her character and that of her father and mother, and presented them with a force and truth that to the critical is injurious to the rest of the play. For the rest, after all, is des restes of their other plays. Indeed, it justified a critical witticism uttered in the stalls, “I always was fond of this play.” This is not surprising. Until the recipe is changed one cannot arrive at much novelty. Given as a theme that the hero is to be suspected and accused of a murder which he did not commit, and has to be made unhappy till the last five minutes of the play, and no author can be expected to produce anything very new. However, the audience does not mind the lack of novelty a bit. In truth, our public likes old plots just as it likes old whisky, old jests, and old politicians—almost anything old, in fact, except old clothes. The tale has a Romeo and Juliet flavour. We have the Montague-Garfields and Capulet-Carringtons living at an English fishing village and hating one another as a mediæval saint hated soap. Why, goodness knows, for the authors may not have invented the cause yet, certainly they have not told it. So Philip Carrington loves Sybil Garfield and consequently roves about the sea, whilst she very imprudently almost marries her cousin, Arthur Tredgold. In the nick of time Philip returns, and Sybil and he get re-engaged, despite the threats of her gloomy brother Edgar. However, Philip does nothing in particular but utter fine sentences and roll his eyes at the gallery, and the cousin pursues his unwelcome suit. Are there many people in real life who desire to make themselves thoroughly miserable by marrying a girl who despises and dislikes them? The conduct of a Scarpia who wants to possess her once is intelligible, but hardly that of a man who wishes to live with her, a fisher girl. Tress Purvis it is who cuts the question. Arthur Tredgold once swore to marry her, and, relying on his oath, she determined to prevent his marriage. Tress tells her wretched tale to Philip, who has been brought up almost as her brother. Like a true hero—in melodrama—he generously resolves to use the knowledge as a means of inducing Sybil to elope; what is to become of Tress of course is none of his business. So Philip and Sybil elope, and as they meet Arthur on the cliffs there is a struggle between them which ends in the hero’s triumph. Arthur determines to go for help, but unexpectedly meets Dave Purvis, the father of Tress. Dave has no one to elope with, so he has resolved to reckon with Arthur, the tale of whose infamous conduct he overheard when Tress told it to Philip. Mr. Tredgold is scornful about the idea of “righting” Tress; perhaps he has read some of the new morality and knows that to marry a girl whom you have dishonoured is to do a double wrong. But Dave has read none of these ideas, so he heaves Arthur Tredgold “over the cliffs by the sea,” as Mortimer Collins would have called it. You can guess the rest of the play; if not it is in thirty-three words: Philip is accused by Edgar of the murder, so he returns to England to stand his trial, and Dave, after conscience tortures, comes forward to say, Thou canst not say he did it.
The chief mechanical effect of the play is a shipwreck, for Philip is wrecked close to shore. The captain on a clear, calm night, manages to run his ship on the rocks in the Channel—nice captain that! This, of course, has nothing to do with the play, but it makes an effective picture, and, no doubt, when the errors of the first night are amended the sinking of the ship will be thoroughly realistic to the untravelled cockney; even he, however, laughed on Saturday when the men who worked the waves broke through their covering and “blushing stood revealed.” We will say no more of the play than that it is as good as its predecessors, and thoroughly pleased the audience. The acting all through was good of its kind, and some performances were good of any kind, notably those of Mr. W. A. Elliot, who was quietly impressive as Dave Purvis, and showed some nice touches of tenderness; and Miss Evelyn Millard, who was a charming heroine in very collant robes; her acting showed rapid improvement.
The Standard (1 August, 1892 - p.2)
After a brief excursion into the regions of the historical play, with results which do not seem to encourage a repetition of the attempt, the Adelphi has reverted to melodrama of the kind with which it is chiefly associated. Messrs. Sims and Buchanan have been called on to provide the piece, and under the title of The Lights of Home it was given at Messrs. Gatti’s theatre on Saturday evening. It would be futile to complain that the authors have not struck out a new path. They have, however, trodden the familiar way with considerable skill; their materials, if not very novel, are effectively utilised, and the result is a piece eminently calculated to delight the admirers of this style of work; while, moreover, the more critical and less impressionable spectator will pronounce it to be in all respects decidedly well done. Playgoers have reason to be grateful to the authors for avoiding the miseries of the London slums, which were at one time a staple of melodrama. Here the scenes are laid on the rocky coast of South England, and on board a steam-ship, with a brief excursion to Baltimore, though when the picture of the American city is displayed it is found to be taken with the sea and harbour prominent in the background, so that the nautical savour is preserved. The personages who chiefly people these scenes are the Garfields, brother and sister; their cousin, Arthur Tredgold, betrothed to Sybil Garfield; Tress Purvis, a fisherman’s daughter, and a victim to Tredgold’s deceptive wiles—for Tredgold is the villain of the play; and the hero, Philip Carrington, first mate ss. Northern Star. Between the Garfields and Carringtons a species of Montague and Capulet feud has long waged; Sybil is the Juliet, and Philip the Romeo of the story, with Tredgold as an iniquitous Paris. In spite of her brother, Sybil meets her sailor lover one night on the high cliffs outside her house; she yields to his prayer, and consents to elope with him, but Tredgold appears at the moment, and a violent quarrel naturally ensues, in the course of which he is violently thrust aside by Philip. Before he can give an alarm a fresh danger confronts him—old Purvis, Tress’s father, has overheard his daughter’s confession, and comes to have a reckoning with her betrayer. The end of a furious scene is that Tredgold is pushed by Purvis over the cliff, the foot of which, with the villain lying dead, is presently shown by a well-constructed mechanical change. It must be confessed that here the interest is not well sustained in the plot, since it is obvious that Philip can be in no serious danger. He supposes that his thrust has sent his enemy over the cliff, and that he is consequently responsible for his death; but, even so, it was an accident, and no evidence could be forthcoming to convict him of murder.
The lovers, now married, are found leading a blissful life at their cottage near Baltimore, but little endeavour is made to extract character or incident from the Transatlantic surroundings. Philip, while at breakfast, reads of his enemy’s death in a paper. Garfield then appears, furious against his sister, and bent on revenge; and the upshot is that Philip resumes the place he had resigned on the Northern Star, that he may go back to England and stand his trial. The scene of the shipwreck will, doubtless, be remarkably telling when the most is made of it. On Saturday evening one of the “waves” lost hold of the canvas covering that was supposed to represent the stormy surface of the ocean, and stood revealed waving his arms aloft; but such an accident is not likely to recur. The vessel, very solidly built up to all appearances, strikes and sinks, the business being contrived with great ingenuity; all except Philip are taken off by a life-boat, and he is rescued by Tress, who rows out to save him, and is rescued by him when her little boat capsizes. The end is now well in sight. At the moment when Garfield charges Philip with the death of Tredgold, Purvis proclaims the truth, the lovers are united with no obstacle to their happiness, and Garfield, who has begun to wonder whether he has not been needlessly and culpably harsh, is left still further in doubt on the subject. On the whole, the most is made of the play by its exponents. Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s earnest and womanly representation of Tress is specially admirable. Her refined and sympathetic voice and manner create much concern for the unhappy girl’s sorrows. Mr. Kyrle Bellew is overmuch given to attitudinising, and to the conventional tricks of the Adelphi hero; but perhaps they are expected, and audiences should not, he thinks, be disappointed. His Philip, it must certainly be said, is well designed for its purpose—that of winning applause. Miss Evelyn Millard also pleases the house as Sybil, and Messrs. C. Dalton and G. W. Cockburn acquit themselves well in their somewhat thankless parts of Garfield and Tredgold. Mr. W. A. Elliott plays with a due knowledge of effect as Purvis, Tress’s father, and the girl’s mother is acted in homely and agreeably natural fashion by Mrs. H. Leigh. Comic relief is furnished by Mr. Lionel Rignold as a private inquiry agent, Jim Chowne, a diverting little sketch cleverly filled in, and by Miss Clara Jecks, who keeps up her notable popularity by a sprightly performance of Martha Widgen, landlady of the Lobster Smack Inn. As her youthful admirer, Jack Stebbing, Mr. Willie Drew, plays with spirit. Other parts fall to Mr. Howard Russell, Miss Ethel Hope, &c. The scenery is, as always at this house, remarkably picturesque; and, indeed, from every point of view, The Lights of Home is a genuine and well-deserved Adelphi success.
Daily News (1 August, 1892 - p.3)
“THE LIGHTS OF HOME,” AT THE ADELPHI.
Recent experience has taught Messrs. Sims and Buchanan that it is perilous to depart from the old ways of Adelphi drama, and they have profited by the lesson. “The Lights of Home,” brought out with a success that is beyond all possibility of dispute at the reopening of the Adelphi on Saturday evening, is a five-act play which pays a prudent respect to the traditions of the Adelphi stage, even to the extent of involving its hero in a cunningly woven web of circumstantial evidence tending to convict him, though innocent, of the crime of murder. This feature alone might suffice to defend the authors if any descendant of Terence’s “old poet” should accuse them of taking liberties with established models; but their reawakened conservatism extends a great deal further. We have here, for example, a secondary heroine carrying on an intrigue with the gentlemanly scoundrel of the play; and this position of affairs ends once more in a murder or rather manslaughter which, while it removes a pertinacious and designing rival in love, brings upon the hero the strongest suspicion of guilt. So far there is certainly little novelty; but then novelty is not what the patrons of romantic drama demand, it is rather what they are given to resent.
Let no one, however, infer that it is an easy thing to win a success as brilliant and complete as that of Saturday evening. “The Lights of Home” presents a story which is interesting in itself and which is set forth with a directness of purpose and a picturesque breadth and harmony of treatment which are only within the reach of the skilled and practical playwright. It has been described as a nautical drama by virtue of the fact that its hero, Philip Carrington, is first mate of a merchant steam vessel, and that its scenes when they are not aboard ship or on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, lie among the cliffs and fishing villages of our English coasts. The opportunities which these localities afford have been adroitly turned to account by the scenic artists; though the towering dicotyledons and the cactuses which flourish so luxuriantly in the garden of Mr. Bruce Smith’s pretty scene of the cottage at “Baltimore, U.S.A.” appear rather indicative of tropical latitudes. Mr. Perkins’s opening scene of the fishing village, with the exterior of the Lobster Smack Inn, kept by that refreshingly, sprightly, and always welcome actress Miss Clara Jecks, here calling herself the Widow Widgeon, is excellent in suggestions of the amphibious habits of the spot, and in the prevailing tone of this thoroughly English landscape. Of the high chalk cliffs, which ingeniously turn themselves inside out to save us the trouble of descending from the summit to the base when we want to see what has become of the scoundrel Arthur Tredgold after the unhappy Tress Purvis’s avenging father had hurled this betrayer of rustic innocence through the frail railing on that giddy height—it is but as other cliffs in these days of daring stage carpentry. The Coastguard station beside the pretty chine in which the long- drawn but never tedious story comes to an end, deserves, however, hearty commendation; and when the great scene of the shipwreck and foundering of the Northern Star is in thorough working order, it will doubtless deserve first rank among the mimic maritime disasters of the modern stage. As it was, the darkness was at once too great to exhibit clearly what was going on upon deck, and not sufficient to conceal the inrush of the band of supers whose business it was to get under the canvas waves and make them roll as if a swift breeze swept the sea. Some abatement of the disorder and confusion aboard in that moment of extreme peril would certainly conduce, if not to the realism, at least to the intelligibility of the scene. For the sake of the reputation of Captain Petherick, who is represented in good seamanlike form by Mr. Howard Russell, it ought to be made quite clear that the screams of terror on the bridge do not proceed from the mouth of that gallant officer. On Saturday evening this was not made clear; and it must be confessed that if it had been the captain who was uttering these heartrending cries the fact would not have been wholly out of keeping with his strange conduct in putting off in the long boat with his crew and passengers, leaving his first mate to go down with the wreck. Of the behaviour of a full moon whose outline and scorings were somewhat peculiar it would be unkind to speak, for where is the moon, full or otherwise, that was ever induced to conduct itself rationally at a first performance?
To tell in full detail the story of a piece which depends for its interest so much on our sympathy with the hero and heroine in their many trials would be fair neither to the authors nor to the spectators. The play is, on the whole, extremely well acted. Mr. Kyrle Bellew has rarely been seen to such advantage as in the part of Philip Carrington, whose love for Sibyl Garfield triumphs in the end over the obstacles of a family feud and the machinations of an unscrupulous rival, from whom the persecuted Sibyl flies one night to embark with her sailor lover in one of the boats of “The Northern Star.” Mr. Bellew is said to have played in real life the very part that he is called on to enact in this story of the sea; and bating a peculiar restlessness and a habit of crowding into a given space of time as many picturesque poses as possible—all which, like his copious vein of nautical metaphor, is purely of the stage—he doubtless played it pretty much in the fashion of Saturday evening. For the doubtful taste of his determination to confide the very latest news of his love affair with Miss Garfield to a crowd of roystering sailors and fishermen outside the Lobster Smack Inn—not to speak of toasts and songs on the same delicate subject to the clatter of quart pots on an alehouse table—the authors are of course responsible. A prettier or more winning and sympathetic heroine than Miss Evelyn Millard, whose dream of married bliss is so rudely disturbed in the Baltimore cottage by the arrival of her implacable brother in the person of Mr. Charles Dalton could not well be imagined. The more sombre part of Tress Purvis, the fisherman’s daughter, was played by Mrs. Patrick Campbell with much force and pathos. The scenes in the cottage of the Purvis family, including the father, played in a roughly effective manner by Mr. W. A. Elliott, and the mother, in whose guise Mrs. Henry Leigh returns to her old allegiance, are by reason of the simplicity and passionate strength of the dialogue equal to anything in the play. For Mr. Lionel Rignold a comic part must perforce be provided. It is found in the conception of a humorous London private inquiry agent whose presence so far from the scene of his ordinary operations is plausibly accounted for. He is a pitiful scamp, who, by all the laws that govern human likes and dislikes, ought to be hated and despised; but thanks to his amusing qualities the audience take him to their hearts. All the compliments customary on a prosperous first night were accorded to the performers, and the authors may be safely assured that “The Lights of Home” will prove one of the most popular of Adelphi pieces.
Glasgow Herald (1 August, 1892)
The experiment of producing historical drama at the Adelphi not having proved the success which was anticipated, Messrs Sims and Buchanan, in their new piece entitled “The Lights of Home,” produced for the opening of the summer season last night, have reverted to the good old strongly-flavoured and conventional style of melodrama which Adelphi audiences have always appreciated. The characters in “The Lights of Home” are all more or less familiar; but for this the habitués of the Adelphi care nothing. The hero, Philip Carrington, a young man of good birth, has, like many other youths of his rank, run through his money, and is obliged temporarily to enter the merchant service as a sailor. He returns from a voyage only to find that his sweetheart, Sybil Garfield, believing him after so long an absence to have forgotten her, has yielded to the entreaties of her brother, and has become affianced to Arthur Tredgold. The return of the young sailor, however, revives Sybil’s old love for him, and she eventually consents to a nautical elopement. Philip is the more desirous to take her away as he learns from his foster sister, a fisher girl, Tress Purvis, that Tredgold has, under promise of marriage, seduced her. Tress’s confession is overheard by her father, who resolves to avenge himself upon the seducer. This leads to one of the most powerful scenes in the piece. On the lawn before the house Sybil meets her young sailor boy, and (the lady being in full ball costume) they escape in a boat, which is seen being rowed out to a vessel in the distance, while Tress’s father confronts the villain, who, after a desperate struggle, is hurled against the wooden paling which protects the lawn from the steep cliff, and is thrown headlong downwards. Here he is discovered dead by the girl he has injured. It need hardly be said that after the manner of Adelphi melodrama, the hero is wrongly accused of the murder. He is, indeed, followed to Baltimore, where he lives married to Sybil, but, conscious of his innocence, he readily consents to return to England, and face his accusers. This leads to another sensational scene, for on the voyage, the hero is shipwrecked, and is left on board apparently to die. From this unpleasant situation he is, however, rescued by none other than Tress Purvis, who, like another Grace Darling, rows out from the shore and affords him the means of escape, his innocence being afterwards established by the confession of the real murderer. Mr Kyrle Bellew is hardly strong enough for the rôle of the hero, but Miss E. Millard is excellent as the heroine, and a still greater success was gained by Mrs Patrick Campbell, who gave a very powerful delineation of the character of the abandoned fisher girl Tress Purvis. Among the comic characters is Mr Lionel Rignold, as a rascally inquiry agent with a lame leg, while Miss Clara Jecks was vivacious enough in the rôle of a widow.
The Daily Telegraph (1 August, 1892 - p.2)
Clever and experienced dramatic doctors, indeed, are the well-known partners, George R. Sims and Robert Buchanan. The Brothers Gatti, who can testify so strongly to their patience and ability, showed their wisdom in once more calling in such eminent practitioners to diagnose the case of the Adelphi patient. Hitherto so robust and healthy, with a constitution of iron, accustomed to go out in every kind of weather by sea or land, it was suddenly discovered that there was a screw loose somewhere with our old friend. The regimen of history romanticised did not altogether agree with him. He turned against his food. He could not digest Oliver Cromwell or the Puritans either. Royalists and the Civil Wars were not for him. He pined for the rose-covered cottage of domestic melodrama, the tears of the heroine in white muslin, the ragged shirt of the shipwrecked hero, and the glimpses of the dear old Adelphi moon. The doctors shook their heads, but were scarcely a minute in doubt. They threw physic to the dogs. It was as clear as possible that the old and hardened Adelphi knew its own constitution far better than its advisers. So the safest course in the world was adopted. They tried back. There was only one safe card to play—the trump card, in fact—and it took the trick on Saturday night, when honours were fairly divided all round. The authors did well; the managers did even better, for, truth to tell, a more beautifully-mounted play has never been seen at London’s most popular theatre even under its present distinguished and artistic management; and, saving a little weariness and depression from over-fatigue and anxious rehearsals, the acting was fairly up to the mark. Analyse the dominant chords of human emotion either from knowledge of the world, a study of history, or familiarity with the drama, and you will find none stronger or more poignant in effect than the heart-broken daughter hiding her shame from the parents who idolise her, and creeping like a shadow among the familiar objects of a ruined home. It appeals to all, to rich as well as poor. It calls forth every accent of pity and Christian charity. The greatest masters of fiction have used it. We need only cite one instance—the one that we all know by heart.
When we hear it once more, and never too often, we are transported in imagination to the sands between Yarmouth and Gorleston, and live among the Peggotty family, and see the handsome Steerforth and weep over the woes of Little Emily, and hear the crooning of Mrs. Gummidge, and follow dear old Dan’l Peggotty on his wanderings after his lost darling. This must have been the picture before the eyes of the dramatists beloved of the people when they sat down to give the old familiar tale another twist, and produced “The Lights of Home.” Who can doubt it who knows his “David Copperfield” by heart, or who ever had the great privilege of hearing Charles Dickens read with impassioned force the brilliant passages of his won dramatic story? You may call her Tress Purvis, and make her a tall Italian-looking dark woman, instead of a fair little English girl, but in essence and in heart she is Little Em’ly after all. You may call him Dave Purvis, a fisherman; but in rugged pathos and in honesty he is old Peggotty to the backbone. The “lights of home” are still in the window of the old beached boat, turned from a home of love to a house of despair. The “lights of home” burn as brightly to-day, in this age of affected cynicism and cheap satire, as they did when Dickens told us the honest truth in his own incomparable manner. Brighter than the blinding lightning- flashes that illumine the doomed ship, by which we seem to see the white face of another Steerforth, we still see the dear and familiar “lights of home”; and, when they burned clear on Saturday night, all went well with the new play. It only went astray when the authors took the steady, constant light out of the cottage-window and took their hands off the pulse of this familiar story. The motive was all right, but it was not sustained enough to keep the attention alert. Better scenes have seldom been written than those that cluster round the pathetic details of the “ruined home.” The lost girl who feels that her father’s kisses burn into her very blood, and make her sin as scarlet; this forlorn and pathetic figure who instinctively shudders at the family table she has desecrated; the hunted, haunted creature, neglected by her lover and conscious of maternity, who, with parched throat and burning eyes, has to read passages from the Bible to her old father and to take her place at the evening prayer; the girl who, weary of nursing her shame in secret, and too agonised with grief to confide in mother or father, makes her sad confession to the one man she knows to be the soul of honour; the crash when the secret is told, the horror and pity of it; the murder of the seducer; the grey-haired father’s humiliation. It will be said that these things are the mere stock-in-trade of the novelist and dramatist. Smart young gentlemen will preach to us about convention and worn-out old melodrama; and both Mr. Sims and Mr. Buchanan will be told to go about their business and to tell us something new. With self-satisfied flippancy we shall be assured that the seduced girl eating out her heart with humiliation owing to the devoted love of her parents is only the maudlin rubbish of the writers of claptrap fiction; with airy confidence and unimaginative philistinism we shall be asked to pooh-pooh such “London Journal” tales and turn our attention to a newly-cooked dish of woman’s peevishness and a hash up of tasteless and ill-disguised pessimism sauced with Socialism and Agnosticism. But the average Adelphi audience know far better what is true and real than their guides and counsellors. They know that this very play is being acted to-day in many an English home; they could point to Tress Purvis tomorrow and single out Dave, the fisherman, from the crowd; and this is why they followed “The Lights of Home” with breathless interest so long as the story kept straight to its purpose and did not go astray.
Nay, more, we hold it, and can prove it to be true. It may be fiction, but it is fact for all that. Many readers may remember a true story of infinite pathos which aroused the sympathy of all London and half the world when recorded in these columns under the title of “A Ruined Home.” It was not so many years ago that an honest workman in a glass-blowing factory in Clerkenwell took down to his pretty home in the country and introduced to his family, by whom he was beloved, one of his “pals.” The mate was sickly and seemed to want change of air, so he was taken down to the cottage, and there he repaid his friend’s hospitality by seducing his daughter. The details of the story were infinitely touching. We recall how the girl, conscious of her shame, never approached the family table and refused her father’s kiss. The drama—for it was a drama of real life—arrived at its climax. Gradually the secret oozed out. The affectionate father became mad with grief, and one day when Maurice Cole, the seducer, not only refused to marry the girl, but spoke tauntingly of her, the maddened father slew his one-time friend with his workman’s hammer. No “London Journal” fiction or Adelphi melodrama, dear sensitive gentlemen! this “conventional” story occurred pretty late in the nineteenth century in a Clerkenwell workshop; and this is the story that is at the root of the new play. Who cares that it has been done before by Charles Dickens or in the police reports? It is none the less interesting when it is seen on the stage assisted by scenery, music, and acting. The fault of the drama, as it seems to us, is one of construction. It has a strong middle, but a weak start and a weaker finish. The authors do not come to the story quick enough, and they drop it too soon. More might have been made of the Steerforth of the romance, on whom the limelight seldom falls. We want to see more of Tress and far more of Dave. They are the human elements of the play. Scant interest attaches to the love-sick hero and the namby-pamby heroine. They are not flesh and blood like Tress, her seducer, and her father. In trying to do too much the dramatists have lost sight of their guiding theme. They let the thread go when they should keep it tight. They hint at a kind of Corsican vendetta; they suggest Colonel Damas and Claude Melnotte; and when the ship scene comes they give us the story of the stowaway without the stowaway. What on earth is Tress, so soon to become a mother—or have the waves washed out her sin?—doing on board that galley? Surely the poor girl was in no condition to act the part of Grace Darling at a shipwreck? But perhaps it was a false alarm, and her old father need not have thrown poor Steerforth over the cliff after all! Sea-born maidens no doubt are endowed with phenomenal strength, but the story of the unborn babe and the rescue of the first mate of the Northern Star do not somehow seem to agree. In the interests of humanity Tress might be left in her cottage, and the stowaway restored to his rightful position. Mr. Kyrle Bellew would be just as much applauded if he swam ashore with a forlorn urchin as with the poor girl who has enlisted our sympathy for five long acts merely on account of her unfortunate position, which is not accurately explained. A jury of matrons would certainly decide against the Grace Darling rescue—under these special and peculiar circumstances. An Adelphi audience is, we fear, not credited with a sufficient sense of the ludicrous. It is assumed on not very pronounced evidence that our Adelphi friends must necessarily go into raptures because they are presented with the blackest of black ships foundering in an inky sea, which is apparently inhabited by sweeps or coaly demons. The hero of this preposterous scene might have cried with Hood:
“My mother dear, my native fields I never more shall see;
I’m sailing in the Devil’s Ship upon the Devil’s Sea!”
More demoniacal billows were never seen on any stage, modern or ancient. The lights are turned down to Cimmerian gloom, and then the audience is dimly conscious of a huge black sea-serpent tossing on what are supposed to be the waves of Erebus. By fitful flashes of the very best lightning ever manufactured we see a captain on the bridge and hear him attempting to give orders in the midst of the most fiendish babel ever uttered in the infernal regions. Apparently the captain is struck down with the new magnesium lightning, which blinds the audience as much as the crew. Anyhow Mr. Kyrle Bellew takes command, and heroically elects to remain on “the demon ship” when the boats have gone off with every one. The ship breaks up, and it is then that the “[?] mariner,” deserted by his “sooty crew,” is left in charge of the phantom-haunted waves. All the buried bodies of departed mariners appear to be rising up in judgment. Some of the waves are urged on their wild career by giants, others tumble about as dwarfs. The waves are of all sorts and sizes, ranging from six feet high to one. The inky billows are apparently endowed with sub-aqueous life. We expect to see them run away, or possibly talk. They are suspiciously confidential to Mr. Kyrle Bellew and Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
“A dozen pair of grimy cheeks were crumpled on the nonce,
As many sets of grinning teeth came shining out at once.
A dozen gloomy shapes at once enjoyed the merry fit,
With shriek and yell, and oaths as well, like Demons of the Pit.”
Certain it is that, though they discreetly forbore to swear, the “demons of the pit” enjoyed the comic shipwreck passing well. Nothing like it was ever seen on the earth above or the waters under the earth. It must be confessed with shame that the ocean is the one thing that has baffled the efforts of the realistic scene-painter. Each sea is more comical than the last, and we can never resist the conclusion that the furious billows conceal an army of acrobatic stage supers or carpenters. We fear the Adelphi audience thought the same. They are not to be hoodwinked by any demon ship!
It is scarcely fair to speak definitely of the acting in the new melodrama yet awhile. It was of good average merit, but it will be better by and by, when the company does not show signs of absolute fatigue, induced by incessant and prolonged rehearsals. When heroes lose their voice before the first act is over, and heroines either fail in spirit or give way to over-emphasis, it is easy to see at a glance that something is wrong. When sleep knits up the ravelled sleave of care, and the exhilarating tonic of success is drained deep, then will the Adelphi company awake to fresh energy and renewed effort. It is the fate of Mr. Kyrle Bellew to be rescued from a watery grave in a perfectly dry ballet shirt. Such happy accidents happen to popular leading men. The other day this feat was accomplished between Sestos and Abydos by one Leander. But apparently we yield in nothing to the ancients. Heroes in love still swim safely to shore in dry ballet shirts, though it be to a humble coastguard station on an unmentioned coast, and, failing a comely Hero, embrace an equally loving Sybil Garfield. Until Mr. Bellew’s voice broke down he was seen, melodramatically speaking, at his best, particularly in the first act, and in the rose scene. He conscientiously scorns the pestilential habit of point-making and playing to the gallery, and tries to bring nature back to the noisy stage. May he succeed in his excellent endeavour, and not be compelled to fall back upon the storm and stress of leather-lunged melodrama! One of the best drawn characters in the play is Tress Purvis, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell has an excellent idea of it so far. She is sympathetic, earnest, picturesque, and graceful. The touch of inspiration and heart-feeling will come when fatigue has been mastered. That it existed was shown by the monotonous accent unduly insisted on. Mrs. Campbell looks the part, and evidently feels it, but the heart did not always speak with the voice. Much more yet is to be done with Tress Purvis. Miss Evelyn Millard may be cautioned against her spasmodic diction and jerky utterance. Her passion seems to come out in explosions and her comedy to be studied staccato. The young lady has great gifts, but already she is stagey—an alarming fault for one so young and promising. Miss Clara Jecks, who seems to grow more like her clever mother—Harriet Coveney—every day, was quite at her best—bright, animated, and working terribly hard for a feeble comic interest expressed in pathetic despair by Mr. Lionel Rignold, who had to work like a galley slave for every laugh. Mr. Charles Dalton with a wretched part, Mr. G. W. Cockburn with one not much better. Mr. Willie Drew, and the veterans Howard Russell and Harwood Cooper all worked loyally and well. But one of the best performances of the evening was that of the old father by Mr. W. A. Elliott, a newcomer, but an excellent and practised actor. He created a very favourable impression. Mrs. H. Leigh and Miss Ethel Hope may also be mentioned in terms of praise. The new drama was received with genuine enthusiasm. There was no discordant note, and not a sign of complaint. On the contrary, authors, artists, and actors were rewarded with special compliments of applause, which were naturally extended also to the Messrs. Gatti, who signalise every fresh success with extra liberality. They certainly treat their patrons very handsomely.
The Referee (1 August, 1892 - p.3)
When two dramatists, masters of their craft, like Messrs. George R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, put their heads together, expectation runs high. But the production of “The Lights of Home” has excited more than usual interest, for it was generally recognised that romantic drama had reached another turning point with “The White Rose,” and everybody was curious to see what Messrs. Sims and Buchanan would do next. With writers so thoroughly in touch with modern life, there is no going back. “The Lights of Home” is a move in the right direction. It is a fine, rousing drama, modern in form, though the sentiment be as old as human nature, which does not change. They have written a story that goes to the heart of an audience which is not ashamed of its emotions, and they have written it in a direct, straightforward manner in which there is more quality than there is in a good deal of pretentious stuff that calls itself literature. There are passages of the highest order in “The Lights of Home,” and it would be difficult to excel in pathos, in delicacy, or in truth the scene in which Tress Purvis reveals her shame to Philip Carrington, bidding him turn his head away the while she speaks. She is a fisherman’s daughter, who has been seduced by Arthur Tredgold, who had promised to make her his wife. But he has other plans for his future, and seeks to discharge his obligations to her by a present of money sent through the hands of his agent. But Tredgold has reckoned without the hapless girl’s father, or the former lover of Sybil Garfield, to whom he has transferred his vagrant affections. Philip Carrington went for a sailor when he found his suit rejected by Sybil’s family, though not by the young lady herself, and when he comes back first mate of the s.s. Northern Star he learns that Sybil is on the point of marrying her cousin Tredgold, whom she has accepted upon the representation that her old lover was dead. The old relations between Philip and Sybil are revived, and with them the old animosity on the part of her family, and from this starting-point the authors have developed their story without any strain whatever, for the structure of the piece is admirable, scene following scene in a natural, easy sequence. If we have a fault to find, it is to suggest that the conversations which open the scenes should be reduced, even at the sacrifice of some pleasing touches of comedy. But we fear this could only be done, owing to the exigencies of the scenery, by accepting the less agreeable alternative of protracting the intervals between the acts.
The vigilance of Sybil Garfield’s brother, who hates Philip quite as much as his sister does the reverse, cannot keep the lovers apart, and, with the assistance of a good-hearted little widow, a meeting between Philip and Sybil takes place under the walls of the Cliff Hall. It does not take the passionate lover long to persuade her to fly with him. His ship is on the sea, and his boat is waiting on the shore, and the lovers are starting, when Tredgold comes between them. He is worsted in a struggle with Philip, who throws him off, and hastens away with Sybil. The old fisherman Purvis has tracked Tredgold to this spot, and, finding himself face to face with the man he has been seeking, endeavours to force from him a promise to save his daughter from disgrace by marrying her. This suggestion Tredgold receives with disdain, even with insolence, and the old man flings himself upon him, and with no thought of murder forces him, in a close tussle, clean over the cliff. Then the scene changes, and the dead body of Tredgold is seen by the light of the moon lying stark at the foot of the cliff, with poor Tress, the only witness of the murder, bending over him, and vowing to keep it secret, whilst Philip and Sybil, happy in each other’s arms, are seen in the distance being rowed off to the ship that is waiting for them. In the next scene we see the young couple in the first flush of married life, living contentedly on an American plantation, but a heavy cloud is lowering over them, for they are presently joined by Edgar Garfield, who has followed them to America, and comes to accuse Philip of the murder of Tredgold. Never was circumstantial evidence stronger against a hero of romance, and even Philip himself, remembering that he was alone on the cliff with Tredgold on the night of his death, conceives himself to have been unintentionally and unwittingly the murderer. He decides at once to return to England to face the accusation, but he is not yet at the end of his misfortunes. It is by a coincidence that he returns to England by his old ship the Northern Star, and before the eyes of the audience the vessel is wrecked on the homeward passage.
This scene of the wreck is, theatrically speaking, a stupendous achievement. The vessel seems solidly built up on the stage from funnel to forecastle, and all the details of the wreck are brought so vividly before the audience that we feel in the excitement of the moment as if we were passengers on board the Northern Star instead of spectators at a play. Theatrical illusion here reaches its highest point. The vessel goes to pieces, the lifeboat comes to the rescue, and Philip alone is left on the sinking vessel, when Tress Purvis, like another Grace Darling, rows out in an open boat, and, as the curtain goes down on the fourth act, she and Philip are seen battling with the waves, which behaved themselves a little irregularly to-night, appearing in their corporeal shapes before the eyes of the public. This brings us to the fifth and last act, which passes outside the coastguard station, and the scene which begins in sorrow, Philip being mourned for as dead by his wife, ends in gladness with the return, to find his character cleared by the fisherman’s voluntary confession, and “the lights of home” beam joyfully on him and his bride at last.
Well-written play as it is, “The Lights of Home” is no less well acted. Mr. Kyrle Bellew stepped at once into the good graces of the Adelphi, where he is likely to become as great a favourite as any of his predecessors, and Miss Millard’s performance of Sybil Garfield matched in its gentle womanliness the manly spirit of Philip Carrington, whilst Mrs. Patrick Campbell, as poor, abandoned Tress Purvis, surprised by the exquisite tenderness and grace of her acting. Mr. Lionel Rignold was received on his first entrance with a round of applause, which was repeated over and over again during the evening, and was due no less to the actor’s native drollery than to the good things with which the authors have amply provided the comical cockney enquiry agent with a game leg. Miss Clara Jecks plays the part of a widow, who is as vivacious and engaging as ever in this new character, and Mr. Willie Drew infuses high spirits into the part of the young sailor who is “growing up to be her second.” Mr. Charles Dalton as the stern brother, Mr. Cockburn as Tredgold, Mr. H. Russell, and Mrs. H. Leigh contributed to the success. The interest of the piece never once wavered, and at the fall of the curtain there was a thunder of applause, authors, actors, and managers being called before the curtain, as the last mark of the public approval on this most interesting and stimulating drama. We shall look to “The Lights of Home” to make a record among the successes of the Adelphi Theatre under the present popular management.
The Leeds Mercury (1 August, 1892 - pp.4-5)
While the last performance of the season was going on at the Lyceum, a crowded audience at the Adelphi was finding pleasurable excitement in a dramatic event of quite an opposite kind—none other than the first production of a new melodrama by Messrs. G. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan. In their last collaboration these two excellent dramatists produced something out of the ordinary line, testing the taste of Adelphi patrons with a little of Old World romance and picturesque historical colouring; but on this occasion they have reverted to original methods, and “The Lights of Home” is as strong a piece of melodrama as Mr. Sims has ever put his hand to, as the Adelphi—famed for the wonders which it has displayed in the way of lurid and exciting stage effects—has ever delighted a Bank Holiday audience with. Necessarily the new play works on familiar lines, and it is perfectly well known that the sailor hero, who involves himself in a coil of conventional trouble at the outset, will by the last act have scattered his enemies and made his future peace secure. But the story is evolved in dramatic fashion, and as there is a realistic shipwreck, a realistic murder, and several other things realistic, it is unnecessary to say that the Adelphi audience exhibited signs of high pleasure and approval, and that “The Lights of Home” seems marked out for a successful run both in London and the provinces. The new melodrama is full of action, the base and the heroic being blended to the approved strength; and some of the stage effects are exceedingly striking and novel.
The Morning Post (2 August, 1892)
BANK HOLIDAY AMUSEMENTS.
At the Adelphi Theatre the good old school of melodrama flourishes in Messrs. G. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan’s genial play, “The Lights of Home,” which was produced last Saturday night with every promise of lasting success. Last night the Adelphi piece attracted a host of playgoers to applaud the brilliant effects and to follow the fortunes of the sympathetic hero and heroine, so well played by Mr. Kyrle Bellew and Miss Evelyn Millard, while the Cockney drollery of Mr. Lionel Rignold, the earnestness of Mr. Dalton, Mr. Cockburn, and Mr. Howard Russell, the pathos of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, and the cheerful humour of Miss Clara Jecks and Mrs. H. Leigh gained the fullest appreciation of a crowded house. Messrs. Sims and Buchanan have produced a play that will prove very attractive, and Messrs. Gatti have placed it upon the stage with even more than ordinary brilliancy. All the best traditions of a real Adelphi drama are embodied in “The Lights of Home.”
The Graphic (6 August, 1892)
“The Lights of Home,” at the Adelphi
BY W. MOY THOMAS
A NAUTICAL drama is a widely different thing in these times from what it was in the glorious days of Mr. T. P. Cooke. That renowned impersonator of the British sailor had served his King and country afloat in the early years of the present century, when the songs of Dibdin, with their numberless references to “winds that blow” and “wooden walls,” went home to the national heart. Accordingly, in the T. P. Cookeian drama the hero was almost always a man-o’-war’s man of the grog-drinking, tobacco-chewing, wide-trousered, hornpipe-dancing type; and its principal scenes were certain to take place aboard a British man-of-war. What the nautical drama has now become may be seen in the new romantic play, in five acts, by Messrs. G. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan with which the management of the Adelphi have just commenced an unusually early, yet very promising, autumn season. Originality in the elements of the story the authors have not sought for, as will be seen in the fact that the whole plot turns upon a charge of murder brought against the noble, high-spirited Philip Carrington, first mate of the steamship Northern Star, who, though he is unlucky enough to be the victim of circumstantial evidence apparently pointing to his guilt, is, it need hardly be said, wholly innocent of the charge of slaying his rival in love, the detestable Arthur Tredgold. The untoward business is in this wise. Philip doats upon Miss Sybil Garfield, of the Cliff Hall, and Miss Sybil Garfield much prefers him to the sinister suitor whom her saturnine brother Edgar, prompted by personal feelings and the family feud between the Carringtons and the Garfields, insists upon her marrying. When one day the long-absent Philip comes ashore from his ship in the bay and discovers that Sybil loves him still, he persuades her to slip away one summer evening from a dinner-party at the Hall and trust her destiny to him. But as the lovers are hastening along the cliff they are met by the detestable Tredgold, and there is a struggle in which the latter is sent staggering into the arms of Dave Purvis, a fisherman who has come to demand at the hands of this scoundrel reparation for his cruel betrayal and desertion of the fisherman’s beloved daughter, Tress Purvis. Hence a second struggle, in the course of which Tredgold is hurled over the cliff. Of this tragic sequel, however, the lovers, who have now descended to the shore and embarked in a skiff for the steamship Northern Star, know nothing; till, while spending their honeymoon blissfully in a charming cottage and garden near Baltimore, U.S.A., their dream is disturbed, first, by a paragraph in an English paper, announcing that Philip Carrington is wanted on a charge of murder, and next by the arrival of the stern, avenging brother. That the manly Philip at once determines to return and meet the charge, and is finally cleared by the old fisherman’s confession, who that has any experience of the ways of Adelphi drama will need to be told.
If there is nothing that is very new in all this, it must be confessed that the authors have told their story in a way that interests, and have garnished it with many pleasing incidents and amusing episodes. They are fortunate, moreover, in the cast. Mr. Kyrle Bellew’s Philip may be given to excess in the matter of picturesque poses; but he is, on the whole, a fervent lover, and he battles with adverse fate in a manly fashion. Miss Evelyn Millard makes a decidedly winning heroine, though her part does not afford the opportunities which fall to the share of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, whose Tress Purvis is a very moving performance. Mr. Charles Dalton appears as the implacable Edgar, Mr. G. W. Cockburn as his cousin Tredgold, and some less prominent parts are assigned to Mrs. H. Leigh, Mr. Willie Drew, Mr. W. A. Elliott, and Mr. Howard Russell. The comic element is not on this occasion so prominent as is customary in romantic dramas on the Adelphi stage; but the popular Mr. Lionel Rignold gets, nevertheless, some fun out of the part of a humourous London “private enquiry agent,” whom strange chance has brought to this secluded neighbourhood of fisherfolk; and Miss Clara Jecks, whose popularity with Adelphi audiences is boundless, wins great favour in the lively part of Mrs. Widgeon, widow and landlady of the Lobster Smack Inn. More than ordinary care has been bestowed upon the scenery. Mr. Perkins’s fishing village, in which the story opens, and Mr. Bruce-Smith’s views of the Gap and the Coastguard Station, in which it comes to a close, deserve especial praise. The cottage and garden on the shores of Chesapeake Bay afford a pleasing contrast after scenes so thoroughly English; but surely the towering endogens and luxuriant cactuses indicate rather a tropical or sub-tropical latitude. The great scene of the wreck and foundering of the Northern Star in the fourth act missed its effect on the first night partly through the darkness of the stage, but more from the bewildering confusion of details. I am told that it is now in excellent working order.
The Era (6 August, 1892)
THE LONDON THEATRES.
On Saturday, July 30th, for the First Time,
a New and Original Drama, in Five Acts,
by Geo. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, entitled
“THE LIGHTS OF HOME.”
Philip Carrington ... Mr KYRLE BELLEW
Edgar Garfield ... Mr CHARLES DALTON
Arthur Tredgold ... Mr G. W. COCKBURN
Jack Stebbing ... Mr WILLIE DREW
Joe Pendred ... Mr J. NORTHCOTE
Ned Parsons ... Mr W. NORTHCOTE
Jim Atkins ... Mr HARWOOD COOPER
Dave Purvis ... Mr W. A. ELLIOTT
Jim Chowne ... Mr LIONEL RIGNOLD
Captain Petherick ... Mr HOWARD RUSSELL
Lieut. Williamson, R.N. ... Mr THOMAS KINGSTON
Sybil Garfield ... Miss EVELYN MILLARD
Tress Purvis ... Mrs PATRICK CAMPBELL
Mrs. Purvis ... Mrs H. LEIGH
Mrs. Petherick ... Miss ETHEL HOPE
Martha Widgeon ... Miss CLARA JECKS
From a practical playwright’s point of view, Messrs Geo. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan’s drama The Lights of Home, which was produced at the Adelphi Theatre on Saturday last with every symptom of success, is not as workmanlike and ingenious as some of Mr Sims’s previous achievements. As the murder of which the hero is accused has really been committed by a good and conscientious man in a moment of intense aggravation, it is obvious that the innocent will not be allowed to suffer for the guilty. On the other hand, there are freshness and novelty in the treatment, we have fewer of the well-worn melodramatic types, and the story is told in a series of interesting tableaux, each of which gives excuse for a very effective “set.” Authors, actors, and scenic artists equally share in the success which we confidently expect for The Lights of Home.
A sketch of the plot will justify some of the above remarks. The hero of the play is Philip Carrington, a generous young gentleman, who has run through his patrimony and become first mate of an ocean steamer. It is only natural that the beautiful Sybil Garfield should prefer this fine young fellow to the calculating and selfish Arthur Tredgold, though the latter is the intimate friend of Sybil’s brother Edgar. No less natural is it that Edgar should object to Philip as a suitor, so Carrington resolves to carry off his ladylove by force. Now Tredgold has seduced Tress Purvis, the daughter of honest Dave Purvis, a fisherman, and she is likely in consequence to become a mother. Purvis overhears a confession of her shame which is made by Tress to Philip, and goes to find the betrayer of his child, whom he meets on the edge of a high cliff just after Carrington has carried off Sybil to a boat. There is a struggle, and Tredgold goes over the edge of the precipice, Purvis nearly sharing the same fate. Garfield comes out to Baltimore, where the young couple are spending their honeymoon, and accuses Philip of the murder. Carrington gives an indignant denial to the accusation, and agrees to return home with Garfield to be tried. The steamer in which they cross the Atlantic strikes on a rock in sight of the lights of home; and Philip, after the escape of the captain and passengers in a lifeboat, is left to meet his fate on the forecastle. Tress rows out to the wreck à la Grace Darling; but her boat is swamped by the waves, and Philip has to save both her and himself by swimming. He succeeds in safely reaching land; Purvis confesses to the manslaughter—it hardly amounts to more—of Tredgold, and everyone, except Tress and the disagreeable brother, is made happy. A comic detective named Chowne pops in and out at intervals; but as Purvis’s confession is entirely voluntary, the services of the private enquiry agent are not utilised. He is, however, a most amusing personage, with his irrepressible impudence and his Cockneyfied conceit; and a bright, fresh character is that of Martha Widgeon, the landlady of the Lobster Smack Inn on the seacoast. Much of the success of The Lights of Home has been secured by the experienced style in which the authors have fitted each artist of the company. Everyone in the cast has an opportunity of appearing at his or her best; and there is neither a bad part in the piece nor a weak place in the well-balanced and judiciously selected company.
Mr Kyrle Bellew is undoubtedly a valuable acquisition to the Adelphi. His appearance is prepossessing, he has got rid of certain minor mannerisms which at one time were to be observed, and his style has a refinement not always found in the representatives of heroes of melodrama. He played Philip Carrington with manly energy and earnestness, and from first to last with complete success. The tattoo marks upon Mr Bellew’s arms still attest to his intimate acquaintance with the “briny,” and he had, therefore, only to revive recollections of his sea-faring adventures to supply him with ample suggestions for his impersonation of the first mate of the Northern Star. In the powerful scene in which Philip Carrington carries off his bride in spite of the resistance of her malignant relative, Mr Bellew acted with great power and vigour, moral and physical. His repudiation, later on, of the accusation of murder was a fine outburst, and his exertions during and after the wreck were extremely active. Mr Bellew did not spare himself on Saturday, and had his reward in the hearty applause which he evoked, and in the enthusiasm which was created by his picturesque, sincere style, his spirited acting, and his thoroughly effective delivery. Mr G. W. Cockburn as the seducer, who meets his terrible fate in the second act of the piece, was sufficiently cool and cynical, and made the most of his opportunities during his somewhat brief dramatic existence. Mr Willie Drew, who is fast becoming a very useful and efficient comedian, played Jack Stebbing, a sailor lad, with humour and vivacity. Mr W. A. Elliott’s Dave Purvis was a very powerful and picturesque performance. The wild agony of a father whose child has been seduced was depicted by Mr Elliott with poignant intensity; and with the aid of a clever make-up this able actor indicated with depth and decision the remorseful sufferings of a humane man with murder on his soul. Mr Lionel Rignold scored one of the greatest hits of the evening by his remarkably droll representation of the private enquiry agent, Jim Chowne. His extraordinary facility of facial expression, the quaint oddity of his general demeanour, and the unflagging briskness of his acting combined to make his embodiment strikingly clever and complete. Mr Howard Russell was bluff and hearty as Captain Petherick, and Mr Thomas Kingston was smart and sailor-like as Lieut. Williamson, R.N. Miss Evelyn Millard played Sybil Garfield with grace, tenderness, and with the needed occasional outbursts of strong feeling. Miss Millard is an actress of much charm, and has a refined and pleasing style which is greatly in her favour. Mrs Patrick Campbell as Tress Purvis had a difficult task. The part is all in the same minor key of remorseful despondency, and Mrs Campbell proved her tact and ability by the inflexions with which she varied the monotony of the rôle, her bursts of grief being natural and deeply touching. That old favourite Mrs H. Leigh was as brisk and humorous as ever as Mrs Purvis, and Miss Ethel Hope was a comely and agreeable representative of Mrs Petherick. Miss Clara Jecks, who looked very bright and pretty as the generally-admired landlady, Mrs Widgeon, acted with her wonted liveliness and with the usual spice of roguish fun.
Special attention is deserved by the scenery, which was very fine even for the Adelphi, where scenic marvels are expected. The purely pictorial part of the work was of the very finest; and the first scene—the “Fishing Village”—proved how much more effective is first-rate brush work than a superfluity of “building up.” It was exquisite in its brightness and reality. The change from the top of the cliff outside the Hall to the foot of the precipice, with the body of Arthur Tredgold lying amongst the rocks was very illusive and effective. Most talked about,, however, will be the shipwreck of the Northern Star in the fourth act. It evoked thunders of applause on Saturday, and, by this time, has doubtless been brought, by repetition, to a still greater pitch of perfection. The method employed to create the illusion is a concentration of light on the quarter deck, leaving the rest of the ship in shade. The necessary darkness and the confusion—which was a little overdone on the first night—robbed the scene of some of its dramatic significance, and the human agency by which the waves were worked made itself too obvious. But these were trifles compared to the marvellous breadth and elaboration of the spectacle, to the fidelity of the imitative carpentry, and to the thrilling effect of the lifeboat rescue. The wreck scene is alone sufficient to secure the success of The Lights of Home. Mr E. B. Norman, who, under the personal direction of the authors, produced the piece, deserves great credit for the thoroughness of his share of the work; Messrs Bruce Smith, W. Perkins, and Henry Emden have excelled themselves in the splendid scenery; and though The Lights of Home is not exactly a “costume piece,” the dresses—designed by Karl, and made by Messrs L. and H. Nathan—must be praised for their prettiness and suitability to the wearers.
Black and White (6 August, 1892)
In the new Adelphi piece, The Lights of Home, Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Sims have done again what they have often done before, and gauged to a nicety the taste for melodrama of an Adelphi audience. There is a place in the world of dramatic creation for good melodrama, and Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Sims between them can turn out very good melodrama of the kind the Strand haunter loves to see. Given certain conditions, given the inevitable hero accused of the inevitable murder, and the inevitable girl who has been seduced by the inevitable villain, The Lights of Home is as good a play as heart of melodrama-loving man could desire. If the would-be visitor to an Adelphi melodrama were to jot down beforehand what he expected to find in his evening’s entertainment, it is probable that in nine cases out of ten he would predict pretty accurately what he was going to see. A wrongly accused hero is an essential, so is an injured young woman, so is comic relief. The heroes are always the same, the heroines are the same, the injured young women are the same, the comic relief is the same. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Sims do the work probably as well as it can be done. But it would be interesting to know what the author of “London Idylls,” what the translator of the “Contes Drolatiques” really think of performances which give to the Adelphi audiences so much honest and so much wholesome pleasure.
The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (6 August, 1892 - p.5)
. . . “The Lights of Home,” at the Adelphi, has much improved since the first night. It is a good drama of the conventional kind, abounding with human touches that go straight to the heart of pit and gallery, and fitted with gorgeous scenery and realistic stage mechanism, that excite admiration in the old and new sense of the word. Now that wind and waves, and the inconstant moon are under better control, one can better enjoy the excitement of seeing the steamer wrecked within sight of “The Lights of Home,” after crew and passengers have been rescued—all but the hero, who is saved by an up-to-date Grace Darling, in time to vindicate himself from a false charge of murder, confound his foes, and embrace his very handsome wife, to the sound of sweet music as the curtain falls on the fifth act. There will be no “dead season” at the Adelphi, thanks to Mr. Robert Buchanan, the Poet, and Mr. George R. Sims, the verse-maker.
The Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph (8 August, 1892 - p.4)
The sensational scene of the new drama by Messrs G. R. Sims and Robert Buchanan, produced at the Adelphi Theatre on Saturday night, is the biggest thing in shipwrecks ever produced on the stage. A steamship under full sail goes to pieces, and the rescue of passengers by the lifeboat is presented in all its details.
The Theatre (1 September, 1892)
“THE LIGHTS OF HOME.”
A drama, in five acts, by ROBERT BUCHANAN and GEORGE R. SIMS.
First produced at the Adelphi Theatre, on Saturday evening, July 30th, 1892.