S. Gilbert > Plays > Creatures of Impulse > First Night Review
Mr. W. S. Gilbert’s comedy, Randall’s Thumb, which, with Mr. John Clayton as Buckthorpe, still retains its place at the new theatre in Sloane-square, is now followed by a dramatic “fairy tale,” written by the same author, and entitled Creatures of Impulse.
The idea of this piece is novel and felicitous. Martha (Miss Lilian Harris), landlady of the Three Pigeons, a hostelry apparently situated in some German village, is encumbered with the patronage of a “strange old lady” (Miss Lucy Franklein), who has no particular name, and who, marvellously and unprofitably, lives without eating. Of this intrusive customer Martha is resolved to get rid, and she is encouraged in her resolution by a large body of neighbours. All, however, learn to their cost that the old lady, who is a fairy in disguise, is not to be insulted with impunity, for, to avenge herself on her persecutors, she casts upon every one of them a spell which compels them to become “creatures of impulse,” contrary to their own nature.
Thus Sergeant Kloogue (Mr. W. M. Terrott), a fire-eating soldier, is forced to assume the manner of a poltroon. Peter (Miss M. Brennan), a young farmer, who honestly professes cowardice, is surprised to find himself bullying everybody who crosses his path; Martha’s niece Pipette (Miss Kate Bishop), really a modest and retiring character, becomes indecorously liberal with her salutations; and Boomblehardt (Mr. Edward Righton), a miserly Jew, is irresistibly impelled to throw away his coin. It should be understood that the disposition of these persons is not affected by the spell, and that, consequently, they are all disgusted at the want of harmony between their own acts and their own inclinations. When the scheme of vengeance is so far executed that Martha, with tears in her eyes, turns her best customers out of doors, the fairy relents, and the “creatures of impulse” are restored to their normal state.
As noblesse oblige, so does great success become liable to a certain penalty. Had the little piece we have just described been the work of some unknown hand we might have accepted it as an agreeable trifle, displaying more than common ingenuity in its invention, and, with the aid of picturesque costumes, lively acting, and a pretty decoration, gracefully concluding the evening’s entertainment, although over-weighted with a quantity of extremely undramatic music. But with the remembrance of the Palace of Truth fresh in our minds we cannot help a feeling of disappointment when we find the author of that really poetical work coming forward as the writer of another “fairy tale,” so immeasurably inferior. Nay, we go still further, believing that Mr. W. S. Gilbert, in his eagerness to produce a mere trifle, has thrown away an intrinsically good idea, of which much might have been made in a skilfully constructed piece of larger dimensions. Surely something like an intrigue, with consequent development of character, might have been obtained by means of the factitious “impulses” to which the “creatures” are subjected; but now the fairy only enchants her victims to disenchant them at pleasure, without arriving at any result, and we have a good foundation with scarcely any superstructure whatever.
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