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Review from The Times
Tuesday, December 27, 1881

The remodelled German Reed entertainment was opened yesterday with three musical sketches, each of which would be amusing as an interlude by itself but the accumulative lightness of which extending over a period of two-and-a-half hours is a little too much. It is like a dinner of whipped cream, a proverbially unsatisfactory banquet. The performances at this bijou theatre are always merry and in good taste, but something of a human and tender interest is usually infused into one at least of the pieces. The present series, however, is entirely fantastic and exposes weaknesses and vanities with undue prolixity and without relief.

Mr. Corny Grain’s rattling account of Master Tommy’s theatricals has, however, less vitriol in it and more good humour than the other dramas. One of these is Mr. Gilbert’s and the other is a still more Gilbertian play by Mr. Yardley.

In Ages Ago, by Messrs. Gilbert and Frederic Clay, the pictures in an old baronial hall come out of their frames, scold each other as wretched daubs, make love to each other, fight, and are reconciled. The idea is not novel but is quaintly and cynically worked out. The Leonardo da Vinci and Michel Angelo look down upon the Godfrey Kneller. The Kneller contemns a half-length by pictor ignotus, which cannot descend to take part in the action because its artist has incautiously left it without legs. Apologizing for such imperfections, “we do not paint ourselves” one of the animated pictures remarks. “Oh, but we do,” observes the fine lady of the play. One of the hands of the Leonardo is lifeless and unsightly. He explains the fact by telling us that it is not by the great master, but has been “restored” by a Royal Academician.

The same actors who play the pictures also represent characters of real life in the same piece, and the effect of sameness is confirmed by their also playing in the last play other unreal characters possessed of no human interest, the wooden figures of the toy-shop – Miss Brandon, a pretty vivandière figure from a pen-wiper, Mr. Corney Grain, a ludicrous Black Forest farmer, the Noah of a German Noah’s ark, Mr. Alfred Reed a toy-soldier, one of 24 to the dozen, and Mr. North Home, Miss Fanny and Miss Millie Holland other playthings. The toys dance together a pretty minuet, but their antics never provoke any of the sympathy which is mysteriously stirred, for example, by the work of a greater artist on a like theme, the funeral march of a marionette. Genius cannot be commanded on every occasion, but a little avoidance of repetition would much conduce to the enjoyment of the entertainment.

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