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Comment on The Ne'er-do-Weel (The Vagabond) from The Times
Thursday, January 16, 1879
THE STAGE IN 1878 (excerpt)

Mr. Gilbert, one of the most prolific and popular of our play-writers, did less than usual last year. With the exception of his share, with Mr. Arthur Sullivan, in the production of an English opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, a comical and melodious piece of absurdity, which has been extremely successful, the only fresh piece of work he produced was a play called the Ne’er-do-Weel, acted at the Olympic in the early part of the year.

This was, in more senses than one, a very remarkable piece. It commenced well, but dwindled off into nothing. The first act was well written and well played, and gave promise, moreover, of an interesting sequel. Yet, suddenly, in the midst of a scene of tender and even serious interest, an episode of the wildest farce was introduced that would not have discredited a pantomime. It must be allowed that both here and in the last act, where again a defect of the same nature, though in a less degree, was prominent, the fault of the scene was greatly heightened by the extravagance of certain of the actors, but even with this allowance, it seemed almost incredible that a writer of Mr. Gilbert’s talents and experience could have committed so unaccountable and so fatal a mistake.

The piece was, of course, and very justly, condemned – more unanimously, too, and more strongly than is usual in these too lenient days. Subsequently, however, it was presented again under a new title, with the obnoxious scenes removed and various other alterations effected. Still it failed to please; and while, no doubt, the memory of the first failure exercised an undue, though in the circumstances, perhaps, a natural, effect upon public opinion, there was scarcely sufficient vitality in it, even in its new form, to insure any very lasting success.

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