|Gilbert > Gilbert's Plays > Sweethearts
This little two act comedy of manners was written for the Prince of Wales' Theatre where it was first produced on 7th November 1874.
The theatre was then under the same management which had produced the best plays of Tom Robertson in the 1860s. This is an important detail, because Sweethearts is Gilbert's tribute to the Robertson style. Its emphasis on the importance of small incidents, the revealing of character through apparent "small talk", and the idea that what is not said in the dialogue is as important as what is — all these things come from Robertson, and are not great features of Gilbert's other work. But even if it is an imitation, it is a very successful one, and it has at its heart an irony which is indeed highly Gilbertian.
Squire Bancroft of the Prince of Wales Theatre called Sweethearts "one of the most charming and successful plays we ever produced". In 1929, Isaac Goldberg was able to write in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan that the play was "one of the few Gilbertian stage pieces that still remains in the active repertory". Even today it has much to recommend it. Its recipe of sentiment relieved with irony is still very appealing: if well done it ought to be highly stageworthy.
13 August, 2011