The Tidings Brought to Mary, 1917
The Tidings Brought to Mary, a mystery by Paul Claudel, translated by Louise Morgan Sill
Directed by Edith Craig
Strand Theatre, London – June 10, 1917
Cast of Characters
The Pioneer Players, who presented Paul Claudel’s Exchange a year or two ago, gave last night at the Strand Theatre The Tidings Brought to Mary, translated from Claudel’s original by Louise Morgan Sill.Translation must needs miss some of Claudel’s sonority and profundity; the union of the exact and the exalted, the passionate and the logical, which makes up the beauty of his unique French. But Miss Sill’s very capable of sometimes very happy version, by robbing us of one part of Claudel’s appeal, only emphasized the extent of another, of which he is sometimes held to be devoid. Is this philosopher-poet, this lyrical mystic, a “dramatic” author? The Tidings Brought to Mary as staged by a fine artist in staging, Miss Edith Craig–answers unmistakably “Yes.” The play is long; it is slow; it is wordy; but it is dramatic. it touches the emotions through its characters and its situations. It is a piece of drama. The story is of two sisters, living in the France of Joan of Arc, who both loved one man. One became a leper and a saint; the other won the man and earthly joys and sorrows. Claudel founded this play on a earlier version of a similar story, in order to fill it the fuller of mysticism, of sainthood, of Catholicism, with its loftiness and its homeliness mingled. The “great scene” is that in which the leper and saint restores to life the dead child of her more earthly sister; but no brief account can do justice to the quality of the play, in which at one moment we seem to be in Reims Cathedral and at another in the rich cornfields and vineyards of rural France.
The part of the leper and saint was played by Miss Kathleen Hazel Jones with a girlish simplicity and sincerity which could not have been bettered. Miss Mona Limerick’s accomplishment and personality were valuable as the other sister, and Mr. William Stack was impressive as a great French craftsman and architect busy upon great French Churches.
(The Times, June 11, 1917)
A play strange and beautiful and atmospheric, translated from Paul Claudel’s “L’annonce faite à Maria” by Louise Morgan Siller was the last production of the season of the Pioneer Players. “The Tidings Brought to Mary” is a mystical drama, laid in France at the close of the Middle Ages. There is much beauty in it, beauty of thought, noble sentiments, fine music, and an exquisite setting for which Miss Edith Craig is responsible. The plot revolves round a miracle wrought on a leper woman, Violaine, on the dawn of a Christmas day, a womam who at the beginning of the play was young, beautiful, beloved, and about to be wedded. On the eve of the marriage she shaws Jacques Hury, her affianced husband, the “silver flower” of leprosy upon her fair young body. Mara, Violaine’s younger sister , unlovely, jealous, and bitter, has seen a kiss bestowed in devine pity upon Pierre de Craon, a leprous man, by Violaine, and has told Jacques, with many insinuations. Mara’s aim is accomplished. Violaine is driven away to drag out eight solitary years, shunnen, reviled, and starved, while Mara becomes the wife of Jacques and the mother of his child. The finest and most poignant scene takes place in the Leper’s Cave, where she is sought by Mara, older, gentler, and infinitely sadder. The two sister meet and hold converse after eight years of silence. Mara, broken and anguished, has come to implore the help of the leper saint. She has brought with her the body of her adored child, and she gives it to her sister’s arms, praying that she will bring it back to life. The woman whose body has mortified, but whose soul has remained unscathed, takes the dead child to her breast, and as the bells that herald the dawn peal across the snow the flesh of the leper becomes sound and sweet, the child moves in her arms and she restores it to its mother—alive but with the blue eyes of Violaine in place of the black eyes of Mara. Violaine is brought home by Pierre de Craon, also restored to health, to die in the home of her childhood, and there is a beautifully written and finely translated scene between her and Jacques.
“The Tidings Brought to Mary” is not a play thaty one could ever hope to see in the regular bill of any theatre, but gratitude is due to the Pioneer Players that they have enabled a few the privilege of seeing an exceptional work. A young actress whose name is unknown to the London stage, Miss Kathleen Hazel Jones, made a great success in the part of Violaine. She realised entirely the Madonna-like beauty of the appearance and the character, and, in addition to her complete understanding, her fresh, soft, young voice and her gentle simplicity of manner, combined with her talent, should bring her very far in her profession. Splendid work was done by Miss Mona Limerick as Mara, and there was quality in Mr. William Stack’s portrayal of Pierre de Craon. Miss Gigia Filippi as the Mother, Mr. Orlando Barnett as the Father, Mr. Henry Oscar as Jacques, all did very good work.
(The Era, June 13, 1917)