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Review of the Production from The Times
Wednesday, March 27, 1878

Mr. Gilbert has lost no time in reshaping his play. The first and second acts have been altered; the first a little, the second considerably; the third has been entirely re-written, and the name has been prudently changed – the Ne’er-do-Weel is now the Vagabond, and, under this new style, was presented once again to the public on Monday night. The wisdom of Mr. Gilbert’s action was proved by the many marks of favour the new version received during its course – scarcely fewer or less emphatic than were the marks of an opposite nature bestowed upon its prototype.

The Vagabond, is certainly a very great improvement on the Ne’er-do-Weel. Those grotesque and violent changes of scene and spirit which excited, and deserved to excite, such strong expressions of disapproval on the first appearance of the original play have been entirely removed, and with them has disappeared a prominent figure in those scenes, one, moreover, advanced by the actor to a still more undesirable prominence. Freed from these blemishes, the undoubted causes of the first failure, the play now appears a very creditable specimen of the modern comedy. Some few less important changes have also been effected; but the play in other respects than those we have noted remains substantially the same. It travels to the same end, if occasionally the mode of travel is slightly varied.

As is not unfrequently the case with our modern drama, the conversation bears rather an undue proportion to the action. “Words, words, words,” answers Hamlet when asked by Polonius what he reads, and the answer would not inaptly define nine-tenths of the comedies of the day. But, at least Mr. Gilbert’s words are generally better worth a hearing than are many with which our stage is in these days flooded. The Vagabond is no exception to this rule. It is neatly and agreeably written, devoid neither of humour nor feeling, agreeably, if not very powerfully, expressed.

The first act still remains the best, the most pointed, the most vigorous, and Mr. Neville’s acting here fully confirms the impression made by him on the first night of the Ne’er-do-Weel. There is a pretty and well-written scene too, in the second act, well acted by him and by Miss Marion Terry. Indeed, the play throughout loses nothing in the acting, which is even more complete than it was before. Mr. Anson, always something prone to extravagance, deprived of a too complacent partner in crime, is enabled to restrain himself within due bounds, and presents a really humorous character in a very proper and entertaining spirit. Miss Brennan replaces Mrs. St. Henry as the kindly, though rather foolish, old maid, Miss Parminter – a character much improved from the first idea; and this change is also a change for the better. Otherwise the cast remains the same, and the acting of Miss Marion Terry, Miss Gerard, and Mr. Flockton remains, as it was first was, extremely good.

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