Kitty Breaks Loose, 1920
KITTY BREAKS LOOSE
Fantastical comedy by Kingston Stack
London, Duke of York’s Theatre
February 16, 1920
Leslie Howard, Mary Peter, Ethel Newman, Arthur Whitby, Eric Cowley, Helen Hay, Boy Beard, Pete Lade. Barry O’Brine, Jr., Theodore Stack
Director: J. Allerton
Called a fantastical comedy and produced for matinées only at the Duke of York’s Theatre yesterday afternoon, “Kitty Breaks Loose” proved to be a mixture of flat-footed fantasy and conventional comicality.
In order to emphasise the need of gratitude to our heroes, the author gives Kitty an impossibly snobbish stepmother. She, of course, personifies bad taste, while the girl represents good nature and the love that makes light of social fetters.
Some old comrades, who treat an invitation to tea as a fatigue, were funny enough caricatures, and Mr. Leslie Howard was amusingly true to life as a smart young sergeant, who sets the enterprising heroine free from smart set.
A band of jolly children romped round a melancholy old organ-grinder, whose music is supposed to be magical; but, as usual, the charm belonged to the little people themselves.
(G.M., London Daily Mail, February 17, 1920)
“Kitty Break Loose,” following three previous presentations, has again broken loose at the Duke of York’s, where it is being given for a series of matinees, under the direction of Joan Hallerton. The piece is styled a “fantastical comedy,” and affords any number of good laughs at the expense of the so-called British upper class.
Included in the cast are Leslie Howard, Mary Peter, Ethel Newman. Arthur Whitby, Eric Cowley, Helen Hay, Boy Beard, Pete Lade. Barry O’Brine, Jr., and Theodore Stack.
(The New York Clipper, March 10, 1920)
In Mrs. Browning’s day our Kitty was called Geraldine — a statelier name for statelier times — and
she was proud and she was noble,
And she trod the crimson carpet and she breathed the perfumed air.
But in spite of these advantages she was struck by a certain Mister (spelt out at length in order to emphasize his lack of title), a certain Mister Bertram, a poet, and invited him to come for the week-end to Wycombe Hall, her ancestral seat. Fatal weakness ! before she knows where she is, she has joined that glorious company of peers’ daughters, so numerous in the world of fiction, who have redressed the social balance by marrying their footmen. She takes Mister Bertram’s hand, justifying herself for this mad action by the observation :
Very rich he is in virtues — very noble — noble, certes ;
And I shall not blush in knowing that men call him lowly born.
These same sentiments, albeit clothed in less luscious language, induce Kitty Oldfield, daughter of Lord Hartley Oldfield, to choose for her mate, not a poet (poets are too cheap and common nowadays), but a thoroughly deserving sergeant in the Engineers.
Round the central figures of adventurous Kitty and her Mister Wilson revolve such minor characters as Lord and Lady Hartley, Lord Arthur Francis, a nut, Lady Eleanor Sinclair, aleni .le nut, and Old Mad Pat, who owns a barrel organ and speaks in parables to a band of children. None of these characters can be said to possess any real life of their own. They are so many Aunt Sallies Bet up by Mr. Stack as targets for our wreaths and bouquets or for the brickbats of our disapproval.
The best performance was that of Mr. Arthur Whitby as Lord Hartley Oldfield. Mr. Leslie Howard was quiet and natural as the sergeant of Engineers. Miss Mary Peter made an unconvincing Kitty. Mad Pat’s band of children were as ” sweet ” and ” quaint ” as children on the stage always are, and Lady Eleanor Sinclair’s Pekingese played an important role in a most masterly fashion.
(The Athenaeum, February 20, 1920)