50. The Wanderer from Venus (1896)
The Wanderer from Venus: or, Twenty-four Hours with an Angel
by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe (Harriett Jay).
London: The Grand Theatre, Croydon. 8 June, 1896.
Darlington: Theatre Royal. 3 August, 1896. First provincial performance.
Glasgow: Royalty Theatre. 7 December, 1896.
There is a letter in The Era (13 June, 1896) from Buchanan complaining about one critic’s response to the play. Buchanan also explained his reasons for producing the play in Croydon, rather than the West End, in ‘An Interesting Experiment’, published in The Theatre (1, July, 1896).
(Harriett Jay played the role of Dora.)
The Era (16 May, 1896)
A NEW and original play, written by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, described as a fanciful comedy of modern life, will be produced at the Grand Theatre and Opera House, Croydon, on Monday, June 8th, and will be played there during the week. The leading female character will be created by Miss Kate Rorke, who will be assisted by a company of London artists. New scenery is being prepared by Mr Hall. It will be remembered that Mr Beerbohm Tree and the Haymarket company opened the beautiful new Croydon theatre with Trilby, and the experiment was so successful that another record, the first production of an important original work there, will now be made.
The Era (23 May, 1896 - p.10)
THE new fanciful comedy, by Messrs Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, which will be produced on June 8th at the Grand Theatre, Croydon, is now in active rehearsal. Miss Kate Rorke will sustain the leading rôle, and also engaged are Miss Vera Beringer, Miss Louisa Gourlay, Mr Oswald Yorke, Mr John Beauchamp, and Mr G. W. Anson. The new scenery is being painted by Mr Hall, and the mechanical effects are being superintended by Mr Dando.
The Era (6 June, 1896 - p.10)
MR TOM CRAVEN will produce at the new Grand Theatre and Opera House, Croydon, on Monday, a new and original fanciful comedy, written by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe, entitled The Wanderer from Venus. The cast will include Miss Kate Rorke, Miss Vera Beringer, Miss Florence Leclercq, Miss Louise Gourlay, Mr G. W. Anson, Mr John Beauchamp, and Mr Oswald Yorke.
The Stage (11 June, 1896 - p.12)
THE GRAND, CROYDON.
On Monday, June 8, 1896, a new and original “fanciful comedy,” in three acts, by Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe,” was produced, entitled:—
The Wanderer from Venus; or Twenty-four Hours with an Angel.
Whatever the ultimate verdict is as to this work from the pens of these productive writers, it cannot be denied that the large and fashionable audience that assembled to give greeting to the new work was throughout most friendly, if not demonstrative. It can hardly also be denied, however, that though the authors have worked upon a theme that in other guises has already been well nigh used up. Suggestions of Pygmalion and Galatea and Niobe were on the lips of all experienced playgoers, and it is unfortunate for the present collaborators that these two works should have preceded theirs, and, moreover, should also have been infinitely better both in story and treatment. The slight ringing of the changes in making the central figure descend from the heavens, instead of taking the form of a vivified statue, matters little; the ruling idea is the same, and the story runs on similar lines. The handling of the theme, too, shows a want of decision, and it would have been much better to make the piece either broadly farcical or entirely poetic, the former for choice, as there is little doubt that the subject is one that lends itself much more to humorous than to serious treatment. On one point the authors may certainly be congratulated, and that is in the interpretation of their work, the cast being one that could not well be improved, although most of the artists cannot be said to have had any great scope for the exercise of their abilities. The play opens in the village of Moonbury, near London, where we find Claude Somerville, an ardent and enthusiastic astronomer, and John Middleton, a matter-of-fact country doctor, engaged to the two daughters of the vicar, Dr. Dullamere. After a talk of more or less worldly affairs the conversation naturally turns to astronomy and upon Claude’s fixed idea that this earth is only one of many planets that are inhabited, and that angels unawares may occasionally visit us on this sphere. The doctor pooh-poohs the notion, and enforces his conviction by material arguments, and after a short love scene with his fiancée, Dora, the young astronomer is left alone, and, after indulging in flights of fancy and meteoric rhapsodies, calls upon the planet Venus to come down. The answer is a charming visitant in the form of Stella, who, lightly clad in gauzy-green garments, flutters down from the heavens, and straightway makes innocent, yet dangerous love to the young enthusiast, at whose call she has left the realms above. In act two, the morning after, we naturally find that the presence of a young and charming “angel,” clad in diaphanous raiment, in the room of a bachelor about to become a Benedict, gives grounds for much uneasiness, and Somerville’s housekeeper is particularly forcible in her reasoning as to the undesirability of such a visitor. As, too, the charming Stella is none too constant in her innocent attentions, but when Claude is absent clings prettily to the village medico, it will be foreseen that the ground is prepared for the plentiful crop of lovers’ quarrels which eventually, and naturally, arise. The engagement between Claude and Dora is broken off. The Girton girl, Euphemia, with her up-to-date notions of man, does not, however, go to such extremes, but contents herself with the stipulation that, knowing such “goings on” must happen, they shall be carried out more under the rose. In the third act the ladies are still inexorable in their refusal to believe in the angelic visitor, whose liberal embracings of everything in the shape of man-kind still continue. Some fun is made when the ever-alluring Stella entices the doctor and the vicar to sit one on either side of her, and proceeds to deck their headgear with garlands of roses. Explanations eventually ensue between the lovers, and when the gentle spirit realises all the mischief of which she has been the innocent cause she is freed from a spell which binds her to the earth, has a timely recall to the planet Venus, and all ends with conventional bliss.
As Stella, Miss Kate Rorke (who, by the way, in the part, made her first appearance on any stage in conjunction with the Croydon Histrionic Society), is simply charming, and gives a portrayal that is throughout graceful and unaffected. To quote one of the authors, “the part is a divine one,” and it is divinely played. Miss Eva Moore as the Girton girl, Euphemia, gives excellent point and emphasis to her many smart lines, and plays with consistent spirit, and Miss Louise Gourlay lends valuable and artistic assistance as Mrs. Allgood. Mr. Oswald Yorke as the star-gazing Claude Somerville plays naturally and well, and by force of character and commendable energy subdues the glaring improbabilities of the part. Mr. G. W. Anson gives humorous and able treatment to Dr. Middleton, and by his experience alone lends admirable service to the cast. Mr. J. Beauchamp, excellent character actor that he is, makes a splendid little study of the vicar, Dr. Dullamere, and Miss Harriett Jay—suddenly called upon to “deputise” for Miss Vera Beringer—plays exceedingly well as Dora. The comedy was mounted to perfection by the local management, and no stone was left unturned to make the production a success. The incidental music was composed by Mr. Orlando Powell, and the play produced under the direction of the authors. A Happy Pair precedes, and is brightly played by Mr. F. Grove and Miss Emily Grove.
The Era (13 June, 1896)
“THE WANDERER FROM VENUS.”
A New and Original Fanciful Comedy, in Three Acts,
by Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe,
Played for the First Time at the
Grand Theatre and Opera House, Croydon,
on Monday, June 8th, 1896.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
The initial performance of Messrs Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe’s latest comedy, The Wanderer from Venus; or, Twenty-four Hours with an Angel, was given before a large audience on Monday last. The play is described by the authors as a “fanciful comedy of modern life,” and the appellation is happily chosen, as a more fanciful comedy it is difficult to imagine. The action of the play takes place at the village of Moonbury, near London, the scenes of acts one and two being laid in Claude Somerville’s apartments, which are presided over by a motherly old matron named Mrs Allgood. Act three takes place in the garden adjoining the house. Claude Somerville is a young man who is given to star-gazing, and whose soul soars to things ethereal and planetary possibilities. His friend, John Middleton, M.D., a rural doctor, is more matter-of-fact, and ridicules Claude’s lofty ideas. The two friends are betrothed to Dora and Euphemia, daughters of Dr. Dullamere, the vicar of Moonbury. Claude is carried away by his star-gazing and dreams of other worlds, and when left to himself, in his enthusiasm he calls upon the planets to send to him one of the beautiful beings his mind has conjured up. His prayer is answered, and a creature of entrancing beauty, robed in light drapery, appears upon the scene. She states that her name is Stella, and that she has winged her way from the planet Venus in answer to Claude’s fervent calls. From this startling commencement the chief incidents in the play proceed. Claude is soon deeply in love with the celestial being, and cannot resist her bewitching power of attraction. Stella, in her innocence, asks many naïf questions regarding doings on mother earth. Her astonishment is unbounded when the differences between the sexes, the marriage laws, and other interesting truths are explained to her. As her knowledge of earthly ways increases, so her mood changes; and in the place of the happy, light-hearted Stella of Venus, with no thought of evil or cares, we soon see the more earthly being with her varying passions, and with her love for Claude, which must not be checked by the thought of a rival. To such an extent does her passion carry her that she does not hesitate to hint that she would not stop at trifles to remove her rival, Dora, from her path. A bitter scene between Claude and Dora is watched by Stella, whose jealous passions are subdued by the grief of the latter. Stella then sees that Dora has a prior claim to Claude; her goodness overcomes her bad feelings, and she renounces her love for him. With the casting away of wicked, worldly thoughts, all her former gentleness returns, and she sees that earth is no place for her. Amidst a scene of reconciliation between Dora and Claude, she wings her way back to her planet home. The serious business is relieved by humorous scenes between Dr. Dullamere, Middleton, and Stella. The latter, not understanding the consternation she causes by her fascinating beauty, makes love indiscriminately to the doctor and the vicar, and a lively scene reaches a climax when Euphemia discovers the three together on a garden seat, the men decorated with flowers, and Stella’s head softly reclining on the vicar’s breast. Dora, Euphemia, and Mrs Allgood also cause amusement by their different ways of showing displeasure and indignation at the conduct of the “angel,” as Claude so aptly denominates his new-found love. The entire action of the play is supposed to take place within twenty-four hours.
As Claude Somerville Mr Oswald Yorke had a part which taxed his resources to the utmost, and he came through the ordeal with flying colours. The rôle was a most difficult one to play, but Mr Yorke was equal to the occasion, and gave an impersonation which reached a high level of excellence. Miss Kate Rorke thoroughly identified herself with the rôle of Stella, and in her light, airy costume looked every inch the beautiful celestial being she was intended to represent. She depicted all the varying phases of the character with striking success, and the changes from heavenly love to worldly hate, and from hate to womanly pity for her rival, were given with full power and great charm of manner. Miss Rorke worked the audience up into a state of keen excitement by her fine acting. Mr G. W. Anson was very good as the country doctor John Middleton. As the vicar Dr. Dullamere Mr J. Beauchamp gave an acceptable character sketch. The part was one that could easily have been overdrawn, but it was quite safe in the hands of Mr Beauchamp. Miss Harriett Jay’s part of Dora, although undertaken at short notice, vice Miss Vera Beringer, was commendably sustained, and in the pathetic scenes her emotion was beautifully expressed. Euphemia, the smart Girton girl, was admirably enacted by Miss Eva Moore. Her lines were delivered with a quiet emphasis which was very telling. Miss Louise Gourlay was delightful as Mrs Allgood, and deserves praise for her natural performance of the part.
The idea of the comedy can scarcely be called original; it savours too much of Pygmalion and Galatea and Niote, but the dialogue is smartly and well written. The play certainly had a cordial reception, and the authors responded to a genuine and hearty call. The hard-working company was also applauded. Delightful incidental music was composed by Mr Orlando Powell, magnificent scenery was specially painted for the production, and the proprietors of the theatre (Messrs Batley and Linfoot) and manager (Mr Tom Craven) may be congratulated upon the completeness with which the comedy was mounted. The comedietta A Happy Pair, which preceded, was irreproachably played by Miss Emily Grove and Mr F. Grove.
The Era (13 June, 1896)
. . .
MISS VERA BERINGER was originally engaged for the part of Dora in Mr Buchanan’s play The Wanderer from Venus, but a minute or two before the curtain rose it was announced that she would be “unable” to appear, and that Miss Harriett Jay would replace her. As one or two portentous paragraphs have been penned, it should be stated that the rearrangement was made in perfect amity among all the parties.
. . .
SO satisfied are the authors of The Wanderer from Venus with the results of its initial week at the New Grand Theatre, Croydon, that they have determined to send it on tour at once, with all the new scenery and effects, prior to its London production. In view of the large expense involved in the cast and in the production generally, only first-class towns can be visited, but a No. 2 company will be organised later on to visit the smaller theatres.
The Theatre (1 July, 1896)
CROYDON has not yet been incorporated with London, and consequently the production at Mr. Tom Craven’s handsome new theatre situated there of a new play hardly comes within the scope of our metropolitan notices. A word, nevertheless, may be spared to The Wanderer from Venus, first performed at the Grand, Croydon, on June 8, inasmuch as the piece bears the sign-manual of two writers so well known as Mr. Robert Buchanan and “Charles Marlowe.” Not that, we fear, their new “fanciful comedy” is likely to add greatly to the fame of either, particularly as the ground it covers is already occupied, and occupied, we are constrained to say, to much better purpose. Had Pygmalion and Galatea never been written, one might be disposed to recognise in The Wanderer from Venus a certain measure of novelty. Unfortunately, as matters stand, we can only see in it a comparatively ineffective version of Mr. Gilbert’s brilliant work. And from this view even the efforts of a company including among its numbers Miss Kate Rorke, Miss Eva Moore, Miss Harriett Jay, Mr. G. W. Anson, and Mr. John Beauchamp have failed to convert us.
From Dramatic Opinions and Essays - Volume Two by George Bernard Shaw (New York: Brentano’s, 1906 - pp. 15-16)
The Wanderer from Venus; or, Twenty-four Hours with an Angel: a new and original fanciful comedy.
By Robert Buchanan and Charles Marlowe. New Grand Theatre, Croydon, 8 June, 1896.
I note with satisfaction that the suburban theatre has now advanced another step. On Monday a new play by Mr. Robert Buchanan and his collaborator, “Charles Marlowe,” was produced at the new theatre at Croydon—a theatre which is to some of our Strand theatres as a Pullman drawing-room car is to an old second-class carriage—with a company which includes Miss Kate Rorke, Mr. Oswald Yorke, Mr. Beauchamp, Mr. Anson, Miss Eva Moore, and Miss Vera Beringer. The band played the inevitable overture to “Raymond” and Mr. German’s dances, for all the world as if we were at the Vaudeville. I paid three shillings for a stall, and two-pence for a programme. Add to this the price of a first-class return ticket from London, three and sixpence (and you are under no compulsion to travel first class if second or third will satisfy your sense of dignity), and the visit to the Croydon Theatre costs three and tenpence less than the bare price of a stall in the Strand. And as Miss Kate Rorke not only plays the part of an angel in her most touching manner, but flies bodily up to heaven at the end of the play, to the intense astonishment of the most hardened playgoers, there is something sensational to talk about afterwards. The play is a variation on the Pygmalion and Galatea theme. It is full of commonplace ready-made phrases to which Mr. Buchanan could easily have given distinction and felicity if he were not absolutely the laziest and most perfunctory workman in the entire universe, save only when he is writing letters to the papers, rehabilitating Satan, or committing literary assault and battery on somebody whose works he has not read. I cannot help suspecting that even the trouble of finding the familiar subject was saved him by a chance glimpse of some review of Mr. Wells’ last story but one. Yet the play holds your attention and makes you believe in it: the born storyteller’s imagination is in it unmistakably, and saves it from the just retribution provoked by the author’s lack of a good craftsman’s conscience.