About the Production of The Strike at Arlingford
by Nykia Blanks, Sandra Brown, David Castro, and Ramata Cisse
The Strike at Arlingford premiered at the Opéra Comique on February 21, 1893. Located in London between Wych Street and Holywell Street, the Opéra Comique opened in 1870 and was demolished in 1902. It was said to have been hastily built but nicely decorated, accommodating 862 seated patrons. Although the theatre had a brief existence, it was renovated multiple times since its inception, gathering positive reviews in the newspaper The Era, which praised its aesthetic and its introduction of Marie Tempest. After its closing, however, The Era stated: “nothing worthy of any record whatever has been attempted at this temple of the drama, which has had a singularly eccentric and mostly disastrous career.”
George Moore was a renowned novelist at the time. According to Opéra-comique: A Sourcebook, “George Moore was one of the most influential and versatile Anglo-Irish writers of the 19th century.” He rebelled against the Victorian culture and supported the Irish Literary Renaissance and the Irish National Theatre. His novels and short stories took on a feminist stand of “gender relations, sex, prostitution, adultery and homosexuality.” While he was praised for his novels, The Strike at Arlingford was not received in the same manner. The Saturday Review commented: “Mr. George Moore has hardly done much in support of his contention that the arts of the novelist and the dramatist are identical.” Moore was criticized for writing “novel dialogue” that did not transition well in the play genre.
The play’s cast consisted of Charles Fulton as Baron Steinbach, Charles Rock as Fred Hamer, Bernard Gould as John Reid, Ackerman May as the Footman, Florence West as Lady Anne Travers, and Elsie Chester as Ellen Sands. In addition to the ill-received plot, the character development was commented on heavily. Some reviewers felt that the characters made the performance. Mr. Fulton was said by The Theatre: A Monthly Review to have a “light and natural rendering of a highly effective part”(215). Miss Chester was said to save the final scene of the play as her acting brought feeling to the play’s closing. Mr. Rock was able to utter the reporter’s complicated language with ease. Mr. Gould’s appearance fit the role of a leader perfectly but his mannerisms did not seem to be suited to the role until the play neared its end. The critic felt similarly about Miss West’s performance, as she was “graceful, winning, and feminine, but not the woman to make a hero faithless to his cause” (215).
Other reviews were not so kind. The main characters were said to be “flat, pallid caricatures of humanity,” according to the Saturday Review (208). A review by William Archer that appeared in the World newspaper took the greatest issue with Miss West and Mr. Gould saying that she “lacked subtlety, seductiveness, distinction” and that he “lacked everything” (Elington 235). The reviewer from The Theatre stated: “acted with greater force, the drama would, I think, have created a deeper impression”(215)
The play’s reception is unsurprising since the net gain from the play was said to pale in comparison to the donation received from G.R. Simms to produce it. Overall, Moore was said to “[have] chosen a fine theme, splendidly human, rarely dramatic.” The fact that “the central theme is tamely handled” was probably his biggest downfall.
Diniejko, Andrezj, Dr. “A Brief Overview of George Moore’s Writing.” A Brief Overview of George Moore’s Writing. Warsaw University; Contributing Editor, Poland, 5 July 2012. Web. 08 Nov. 2015.
Elington, Charles. “Notes of the Month.” The Theatre 1 Apr. 1893: 235-37. Elington & Co. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.
“The Independent Theatre.” Rev. of The Strike at Arlingford. The London Weekly Times 24 Feb. 1893: 5. Print.
Letellier, Robert Ignatius. Opéra-comique: A Sourcebook. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, Print.
Moore, George. The Strike at Arlingford: A Play in Three Acts. London: Walter Scott, 1893.
Web. 9 Sept. 2015. https://archive.org/details/strikeatarlingf00moorgoog
“Opera Comique.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.
Parker, John. “The Theatres.” The Saturday Review 25 Feb. 1893: 208. Strand. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.
“Plays of the Month.” The Theatre 1 Apr. 1893: 214-15. Elington & Co. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.